In the world of independent movies and film festival submissions, there can be a moment of exhaustion when you get a copy of a movie you have not only never heard of before but don’t have much to go on based on its description on the back cover, even when you see a smaller movie with the blurbs “No Hidden Cuts” & “One Single Take” on the back cover. I would NEVER judge a movie this way, of course (as many remember the old “Never judge a book by its cover” line), but nevertheless I took this review copy and placed the disc in my player, not knowing what to expect.
And I was hooked pretty quickly. We are introduced right away in LAST CALL to two characters in a top/bottom split-screen; Beth (Sarah Booth) is a janitor picking up a graveyard shift at a clinic. She isn’t supposed to be answering the phone, but is making an exception tonight to hopefully hear that her son is okay. As this progresses, we see Scott leaving a liquor store, heading back to his apartment. He makes a call and Beth picks up (right at the point the framing devices changes in a visually impressive moment); she not realizing that Scott is suicidal on one end, and he not realizing that he mistakenly called her instead of a suicide prevention hotline. The two forge a unique connection and a bond forms, all the while we worry about Scott if he is going to take his harmful words any further.
LAST CALL is one of those great indie concepts where a filmmaker has a good idea, puts all of their energy and passion into not just the process but also making a point on capturing a unique incident in an interesting way. It also makes nice and subtle comments on the work force along with mental illness, and how both Beth and Scott have their own unique problems. We deeply come to feel for both of them. Sarah Booth especially deserves credit for a fearless, bold performance and how she deals with Scott over the phone is remarkable.
I have seen the single-take concept done many times before, all the way from Hitchocks’ one-shot-per-reel ROPE to more modern titles like RUSSIAN ARK and VICTORIA which used digital cameras and hard drives to capture an entire event unfolding all at once. Here, director Gavin Michael Booth takes it a step further by filming not only one, but two single takes AND at the same time with an active phone line connecting the two. This is harder than it sounds, but it makes the situation immediate and all the more intense from this design. Booth even plays with the split-screen well, switching it from a top-bottom to side-by-side, DePalma esque style of split-screen when the story needs it the most. There are moments where some of it stalls and yet I felt deeply connected and involved with all of it. LAST CALL absolutely works.
About The Blu Ray:
Shot in Red 8k, this movie has a surprisingly colorful look and is a great example of the power of low-light photography. Even in what appears to be some dim situations, the colors and detail are absolutely striking. In particular, Beth’s blue-bathed office takes it a step further and has an oddly calming effect thanks to the high resolution. The limited outdoor shots also have terrific black detail. I would even go so far as to suggest to Mill Creek to release LAST CALL on 4k HDR disc, but the Blu Ray has such a fantastic look itself and really shines. The sound mix doesn’t hold up AS well, but it doesn’t have to; some moments where we hear a more muffled phone conversation than expected or a slowly creeping music score are not exactly groundbreaking, but it suits the material.
The only two features on the disc include a quick theatrical trailer and a very brief making-of doc (at only three minutes) that explains a lot of the process in quick shots and title cards. It’s simple but effective, a nice window into Gavin Michael Booth’s style and it was also nice to learn about how the music score was produced as well.
LAST CALL is a great movie from limited sources, something I wish more moviegoers would seek out and is a welcome addition to single-take movies with a clever spin and an outstanding lead performance by Sarah Booth. This release comes highly recommended.
LAST CALL is now available on Blu Ray, DVD and digital platforms in Canada in the US through Mill Creek Entertainment. Thanks to our new media partners at Mill Creek for sending out a copy for review!