Starring: Timothy Spall, Phyllis Logan, Grace Calder
Director: Gillies MacKinnon
Running Time: 88 mins
The Last Bus is a British film about an elderly Cornish man living in John O’Groats who, after the death of his wife, makes a fateful journey to his home in Land’s End on a series of local buses.
If you like soppy, clichéd dramas that bend nose over tail to make you weep, then you’ll certainly like The Last Bus, but that doesn’t make it the achingly beautiful drama it thinks it is. Despite an often touching performance from Timothy Spall and a screenplay with its heart in the right place, this is a film which goes totally overboard in its attempts to tug at your heartstrings.
However, let’s start on the positive side of things, with the fact that there are a good few moments of really touching emotion here. On the whole, the more ‘dramatic’ moments of the movie are far less effective than its quietest scenes, particularly in which the screenplay allows you as the viewer to dive inside the psyche of its main character without heavy-handed dialogue.
Above all, those are the moments in which we see Tom Harper (Spall) go to places that he once visited decades ago with his wife as they moved from Land’s End to John O’Groats, as he marvels at the way the world has changed, but how things are still recognisable.
In that, the film plays on themes of the life cycle, with a number of moments where Tom interacts with young people coming off a little like Ingmar Bergman’s classic Wild Strawberries, albeit nowhere near as subtle and consistent.
Subtlety is something that The Last Bus really doesn’t know how to do. It’s a sweet movie, but there are some painfully soppy moments throughout the film in which the movie tries to get you to cry or cheer through rather superficial means.
That includes a forced conversation at a bus stop in which Tom somehow changes somebody’s entire life with just a few words, an unbearably cheesy couple of scenes in which bus passengers rally around him when things aren’t going right, and a whole lot more.
The movie seems to be trying to pull off a story where it showcases everything that makes Britain ‘great’ and ‘bad’, but it comes off as awfully simplistic and far more disingenuous than I know was the intention.
Those quieter, more personal moments in which the movie doesn’t try to make some big, cheesy rallying cry are far more effective, and the few which bring this film up from soppy cliché to an often touching affair. So, that’s why I’m giving The Last Bus a 7.0 overall.