Film review: The Last Word

In June 2017, Edinburgh hosted the 71st annual Edinburgh International Film Festival, playing host to a wide variety of incredible films from world cinema. The Strathclyde Telegraph’s Arts Editor, John-Anthony Disotto and writer Blair MacBride attended the festival and have curated a selection of reviews to keep you up to date with some great cinematic gems that are being showcased in Glasgow over the course of September. 

As comedy-drama motion pictures go, the majority normally feel forced in both their comedic and dramatic aspects, rendering them nearly unbearable. ‘The Last Word’ is an excellent refreshing contradiction to this common notion.

Directed by Mark Pellington, this film stars Shirley Maclaine who plays Harriet Lauler. The character is a retired business-women who is an obsessive control freak. Harriet decides to take matters into her own hands when she’s reminded of her own mortality, and seeks to have her obituary written for her before she checks out from life. Harriet enlists a young journalist, Anne (Amanda Seyfried), to carry out the task in question. This act sparks a life changing friendship, not just for Harriet, but for Anne too.

At the beginning of this movie, the characters of Harriet and Anne despise each other. Their personalities are completely different and Anne is reluctant to even entertain the idea Harriet has insinuated. The journey that both characters take, though, is championed and perfected by the actors that play them. Shirley Maclaine and Amanda Seyfried are wonderful in this motion picture. The chemistry they have with each other, and with the rest of the cast, enables them to feed off the others convincing performances. Whilst Maclaine undoubtedly takes centre stage as this movie’s lead role, Seyfried’s ‘Anne’ is perhaps the best thing about ‘The Last Word’. The arc her character takes in transforming from a shy, self-doubtful writer into a new found happy and confident person is brilliant.

Initially, the plot of ‘The Last Word’ was one I was sceptical of. That being said, the way the script panned out proved me utterly wrong. Written by first timer Stuart Ross Fink, this motion picture’s story worked very well. Fink cleverly gives a nod to multiple real life issues which are completely relatable to viewers. It was also great to watch a natural flow of both comedy and drama intertwining and complementing each other. For any script, this shows how well it was written and performed.

Not only was the writing a success in this motion picture, but so too was the direction offered by Mark Pellington. In some places during the movie, the pacing felt slightly slow and uneven. Nevertheless, the way in which the majority of the scenes were directed enables this film to be genuinely humorous, but at the same time, dramatic and sincere when it needs to be. It meant that this motion picture didn’t fall flat like a lot of other films in this genre.

The appealing score of Nathan Matthew David adds greater depth to every scene as well. He puts together a nice blend of inter-generational songs and a few of his own composed works. His efforts emphasise the change in moods and atmosphere between scenes. Compared with other scores, it does its job well. The score complements the script with an enjoyable amount of glee or suspense in each song, and evokes the emotions that the characters are feeling in the audience too.

‘The Last Word’ is a delightful motion picture. Through the wonder of film, this movie offers lessons in life in the least cringey and most relatable way possible. It incites sentiments to be confident, take risks, and how we are the ones with the power to shape our lives the way we want them to be. As Maclaine’s character says, ‘You don’t make mistakes, mistakes make you.’ This therapeutic, eye-opening reminder about life is a film everyone should go and see.

By Blair MacBride