Director: Joel Hopkins
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Kathy Baker, James Brolin, Eileen Atkins, Richard Schiff, Liane Balaban
RunTime: 1 hr 35 mins
Released By: Shaw
Official Website: http://www.lastchanceharvey.com/
Opening Day: 5 March 2009
New Yorker Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman) is on the verge of losing his dead-end job as a jingle writer. Warned by his boss (Richard Schiff) that he has just one more chance to deliver, Harvey goes to London for a weekend to attend his daughter’s (Liane Balaban) wedding but promises to be back on Monday morning to make an important meeting—or else.
Harvey arrives in London only to learn his daughter has chosen to have her stepfather (James Brolin) walk her down the aisle instead of him. Doing his best to hide his devastation, he leaves the wedding before the reception in hopes of getting to the airport on time, but misses his plane anyway. When he calls his boss to explain, he is fired on the spot.
Drowning his sorrows at the airport bar, Harvey strikes up a conversation with Kate (Emma Thompson), a slightly prickly, 40-something employee of the Office of National Statistics. Kate, whose life is limited to work, the occasional humiliating blind date and endless phone calls from her smothering mother (Eileen Atkins), is touched by Harvey, who finds himself energized by her intelligence and compassion.
The growing connection between the pair inspires both as they unexpectedly transform one another’s lives.
Nature and Fate have their wry sense of humour to trip up those who are actively
looking for love. As the adage goes, Love will hit you when you least expected, and
for the dreamy me, I still find myself falling head over heels for stories that has
that chance encounter amongst strangers. So films like Serendipity and Before
Sunrise work for me, because it's all about seizing the opportunity, filling the
heart with courage, and to take that leap of faith.
Last Chance Harvey has shown that you don't need big special effects, or a plot
that's convoluted and spins your mind around, to make an effective, sincere movie
that comes straight from the heart. Credit goes to writer-director Joel Hopkins to
show that there is beauty in simplicity, and the silver bullets here, are the
enigmatic performances of seasoned thespians in Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson,
who still have in them what it takes to show teenage upstarts a thing or two about
acting. A smile, a twitch, a gesture here and there, seem to do wonders to fleshing
their characters, making them as lovable as they are believable, with two strangers
who find companionship in the company of each other, through long walks about
It took some 30 minutes to set up the characters and the problems they face, with
the narrative flip-flopping between both sides of the Atlantic to show us a typical
day in the lives of American Harvey Shine (Hoffman) and Briton Kate Walker
(Thompson). For Harvey, a commercial jingle composer, he's fighting for survival in
his job through a make-or-break business account, but has to make his way over to
London to attend the wedding of her daughter. We learn that he's more like an
outsider to his estranged family.
Being estranged from his family, we learn that he's more of an outsider given that
his role in the household has been replaced by another man, and shocking as it is,
is that his daughter has decided that the other man would be the one who will give
her hand away in marriage. And to compound the problems of that single day, he
misses his flight home, and becomes redundant in his job. Dustin Hoffman just fits
this role like hand in glove.
For Kate, she's stuck in a dead end job conducting surveys at an airport while
dreaming of becoming a writer, and lives under the constant phone calls of an
attention-seeking mom, who is a character that provides some comic relief due to her
suspicion of a new Polish neighbour being more than who he is. Single and looking
for love, she's comfortable in being the wallpaper in a party, being invisible and
blending into the background amongst a group. You know, the kind of person whom you
will not miss even when she leaves a party abruptly. Like Hoffman, Thompson too
brought about that sense of resignation to her life, one that she thinks will never
So put two and two together in one afternoon at an airport restaurant, and see the
magic worked back and forth effortlessly as they switch from sowing the seeds of a
perfect friendship, to hints of flirtation. It might be a talkie movie from then on,
but Joel Hopkins understood when to pull the plug before it got too self-indulgent.
Paced perfectly, we become privy to the lives of two strangers who share incredible
chemistry and strength drawn from each other, and from there, witnessing how their
lives get transformed. One may wonder just how plausible stories like these could
be, but it's exactly this kind of hope and optimism that triumphs over the usual
doom and gloom romantic tragedies, that even for me has become too cynical for this
age we live in.
It's getting a little crowded in the theatrical offerings in the coming weeks, but
don't let this fly under your radar. Forget the noisy and bland action movies or
graphic novels turned into films both Eastern and Western. Here's something that
will genuinely charm your socks off, in being wonderfully touching and endearing.
P.S. Don't head for the doors just yet when the credits start to roll, there's a
lesson about judging a book by its cover to be learnt.
(The perfect aphrodisiac for depressing times – a refreshingly good old fashioned romance with all the right themes)
Review by Stefan Shih