Danny Huston (director)
26 April 2021 (released)
24 April 2021
The Lockerbie disaster other than the town and the families and friends touched by it, has over the years drifted from the memory, as these things do. That’s not to lessen the impact it had. A Google search will turn up the stark photo of the forward section in a green field and the horrific trough the plane left through the village as it crashed down.
It certainly hasn’t had the cinematic attention of 9/11 which led to a number of films and tv programmes. In The Final Photograph Danny Huston is not trying to readdress a balance - this is not a competition – but tell a story of grief, guilt and possibly coming to terms with traumatic loss.
Its 1988 and Tom Hammond (Danny Huston) is driving his son Luke (Jonah Hauer-King) to the airport for a flight to New York to spend Christmas with his girlfriend Bird (Stacy Martin). It’s a love at first sight romance that has taken both in very few weeks as recounted in black and white flashback as he tells his father how they met.
Switching to 2003 (and to colour) a dour Tom having left his job in the city goes to open his bookshop winding up his business neighbour Hannah (Sarita Choudhry) by shunting one of her café patrons away from the shop entrance. As he settles down to work a mother and daughter rob him of his bag which has some money but more importantly, a photograph. The police are called but the thieves are long gone. He’s told they’ll just take the cash and dump the rest.
The rest is what matters to Tom, as he searches through park bins and at one point falsely accusing two women of stealing it. It’s a mistaken identity leaving Tom distraught and humiliated; at a point of total collapse.
This is intertwined with flashbacks/memories of happier times of Luke and Bird courting, Tom and Luke at Christmas with friends. It’s somewhat jarring but effectively builds the picture and background right up to the point of the attack.
The film is based on a novel (and adapted for the screen) by Simon Astaire. One can’t ever really understand what the effect of the death of a loved will have on an individual let alone in the circumstances of an event like Lockerbie. But Huston through his acting and direction does give some idea of the mental strains and long-term effects. It’s a terrific performance; a complicated blend of raw emotion and weariness. A man who while not beaten is struggling with almost everything and barely keeping it from surfacing.
His fixing on the photograph to the point of mania is understandable once the backstory and circumstances are explained. Huston however also uses this device as way to allow Tom to move on from the attack, and away from his reliance on the photo.
The film has a dull grey wash, even in the colour sections, that may be appropriate for the subject but doesn’t do much for the visuals, and in that respect is unengaging. Those though aren’t the drivers as this is about character and emotion and very much Huston’s film.
The Last Photograph is available on digital platforms from 26 April.