THE LAST (2019)
Starring Rebecca Schull, Jill Durso, AJ Cedeno, Reed Birney, Julie Fain Lawrence, Sami Bray, Jagger Nelson, Russell Koplin, Ariel Eliaz, Cara Yeates, David E. Gottfried, Madelyn Barkocy, Amir Royale, Brandon Damiano, Jacob Goodhart, Josh Lerner, Adam Naimoli, Shannon Tyo, Haskiri Velazquez, Grace Woosley, Carolyn Baeumler, Jerry Matz, Elaine Bromka and Nimo Gandhi.
Screenplay by Jeff Lipsky.
Directed by Jeff Lipsky.
Distributed by Plainview Pictures. 123 minutes. Not Rated.
Every family has secrets. No one can know everything about anyone else, and that is probably for the best. There are things about your grandmother, or your mother, or even your child, which you will never be let into. Again, perhaps that is the way it should be.
The Last rides on one hellacious doozy of a family secret – the type of thing that can potentially destroy the family. At the very least it will cause tremors of disappointment, anger and recrimination which will throw them all off of their access, and make the clan believe that all they have thought in their lives may be wrong.
This particular family is a middle-classed Jewish clan that live close to the sea in the Hamptons in New York. It looks at four generations of the group. All of the members have differing levels of reverence to their religion, but all of them do believe in faith and goodness.
The secret belongs to the matriarch of the clan. Claire is a sweet and somewhat doting 90-something concentration camp survivor. She is long widowed, but is loved and respected by her son, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. When she learns that she has a terminal illness, she decides to tell her family something that she has not told anyone in over 70 years.
Claire is not actually Jewish. She was in the concentration camps – but as a nurse in the medical experimentation, not as a prisoner. She was a young girl who was saved by a doctor who gave her safe passage to Poland. Eventually he becomes one of the top doctors in the camps, and she works as his nurse. As it becomes obvious that the Nazis are going to lose the war, the doctor got her transport to the United States, setting up a fake identity as a camp survivor.
More than that, even after all these years, Claire is completely unrepentant. She is not sad about what she has done, she is only sad that her side lost.
So, how is a nice Jewish clan going to react to the fact that their sweet little bubbe is actually a Nazi war criminal?
Quite a conundrum.
It is made doubly confounding due to an amazing performance by Rebecca Schull – who is probably best known for a long run as airport worker Fay on the 90s sitcom Wings. Schull makes Claire wonderfully human. She is lovable and hateful, sad and scary, smart and weak, faithful and inscrutable, all at the same time.
As the poster asks: What would you do?
This quietly intense (and very talky) film explores that question. Full of lots of passion, but not so much action, The Last shows a family coming apart at the seams and trying to figure out how to react to the bomb that has been metaphorically tossed into their world.
It’s an intriguing premise, and it is handled by some fine actors. Beyond Schull, Jill Durso really stands out as the grandson’s fiancée who is very serious about converting to Judaism. Reed Birney is also terrific as the woman’s son and AJ Cedeno as the grandson.
Full of intelligent wordplay, philosophical debate and a very disturbing premise, this small film is surprisingly moving.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2019 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 29, 2019.