Made as a collaboration between the BBC's film and documentary departments, Last Resort is proof that film-making doesn't have to adhere to traditional methods. Director Pawel Pawlikowski didn't use a script for his low-budget drama but merely provided an outline, while the actors themselves helped develop their own characters during rehearsals and the shoot itself. At a trim 76 minutes, the end result refuses to slot neatly into any single category and yet has deservedly won a number of festival prizes.
The plot might suggest an earnest, socially realistic drama, which will expose the plight of refugees attempting to gain entry into this country. Yet Last Resort isn't really `about' the immigration situation. There's no sermonising here, no spouted morals, no emotive music.
Instead, Pawlikowkski presents us with a deft character study, in which Korzun (a Russian theatre actress) and Considine (A Room For Romeo Brass) are compelling as the two outsiders struggling to forge some sort of link, both yearning for something beyond their circumstances. Nor does their relationship conform to the clichés of an unshakeable, cultural boundary-crossing romance. Hurt by her past experiences, Dina is credibly tentative in her response to Alfie's acts of kindness.
Visually, Last Resort has the capacity to make you see England with new eyes. Cinematographer Ryszard Lenczewski switches between hand-held shots in which close-ups reveal the subtle expressiveness of the actors and locked-off wide views of the local landscapes. Stonehaven itself is nightmarish in its unattractiveness, hence looming tower blocks, surveillance cameras and strangely deserted streets. And it's precisely the contrast between this funereal backdrop and the humanity and resilience of the protagonists which makes Last Resort so moving.
Like the recently released The Low Down, Last Resort proves that a small budget is no barrier to coming up with a fresh, engaging piece of cinema. The poignant performances and Pawlikowski's compassion for his characters shine through.