By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 23, 2001
shy but determined Russian woman, virtually penniless and accompanied by her
bright, cheeky 10-year-old son, flies into London, looking for her fiancé. But when her intended doesn't appear, she demands political asylum.
Artiom Strelnikov and Dina Korzun in "Last Resort."
(Joss Barratt/Shooting Gallery)
In "Last Resort," a modestly budgeted film, shot mostly in a cinema verite
style, Tanya (Dina Korzun) is simply buying time to keep from being deported
and to find her apparent husband-to-be. Unfortunately, the British
authorities take her request seriously, transporting Tanya and her son,
Artiom (Artiom Strelnikov), to a depressing seaside resort-cum-stalag named
Now, Tanya must live in a depressing, cramped tenement, surrounded by surveillance
cameras, police supervision and fellow refugees who spend much of their time
lining up next to telephone booths to call home.
Her application for asylum, she learns, is unlikely to be processed for
months. She can't even return to Moscow without paying for her own ticket
back or by applying for deportation another lengthy bureaucratic procedure.
"Last Resort," co-written and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, feels like a
cross between a low-budget short (it's 74 minutes) and an extended reality
television piece. Prior to filming, Pawlikowski asked his actors to develop
many of their scenes through workshops. He then shot the film, mostly in
Despite the quasi-reality approach, a story structure does emerge as Tanya
becomes friendly with Alfie (Paddy Considine), a good-natured amusement
arcade proprietor who knows everyone in the bleak neighborhood, and a
pornographic Internet filmmaker named Les (Lindsey Honey, a real-life pornographer from England), who preys on Tanya's need for quick cash.
This triangulation leads to an over-the-top finale that may take many
viewers by unpleasant surprise. But it's easy enough to regard this as a
temporary flop on the ice and appreciate the way Pawlikowski, a Polish
documentary filmmaker, refuses to put the movie in any particular category.
You can also enjoy the deft, understated performances. As Tanya,
Korzun is sweetly arresting, a deeply sensitive woman who is a prisoner of the
love she seeks so desperately. As he did in "A Room for Romeo Brass,"
Considine walks a fascinating line between being endearing and possibly
dangerous. In this movie, though, he's eminently more appealing.
And as Les, Honey puts a little "Boogie Nights" sensitivity into what most
movies would have portrayed as a completely negative role.
Pawlikowski's style makes for compelling, if sometimes grittily depressing,
viewing, as we follow everyone's daily anxieties, seemingly to the minute. We
also get the benefit of long stretches of time with the characters, giving
them a greater degree of unscripted intimacy than we see in most movies. This
open-endedness is so refreshing, it's more than enough to get us through the
bleaker aspects of life in Stonehaven and to root for love between two lost
souls searching for nothing more profound than loving companionship.
"Last Resort" (Unrated, 74 minutes) Contains violence, obscenity, nudity and sexual scenes.