Grief has many faces and stages, but at the centre of it all is always some type of loss. For Tom Hammond (Danny Huston) in The Last Photograph, his whole life is consumed with loss. Huston (The Constant Gardner, Wonder Woman), who also directs, portrays the grief-stricken, lost, irrationally angry protagonist of this film. With the loss of his son Luke (Jonah Hauer-King), he expertly portrays all the stages of grief.
This is one of those all out of order, all over the place films, where it shows its viewers tidbits of the past, snippets of the present, building the story piece by piece, deliberately, to the future where Tom finally is able to confront his grief and loss by visiting the tragic scene where his son met his untimely fate. The viewer will be pulled into the romance that has bloomed between Luke and Bird (Stacy Martin), and Luke’s telling of how it all came to be, with flashbacks, to his father on a car ride to the airport where he intends to fly to his new paramour and begin a life together.
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Tom becomes obsessed with finding a photograph of him and his son, stolen from him, just as his son was stolen too soon. The photograph consumes him, and viewers are treated to the origin of the photo, where he and his son shared a wonderful holiday memory together. As irrational and out of control Tom becomes, it is an apt portrayal of how a person feels when frenzied with grief over the loss of a loved one.
He spirals out of control and if it wasn’t for friend, Hannah (Sarita Choudhury), he might have not made it out the other side. Choudhury is the standout in this flick, with her no-nonsense treatment of Tom. She doesn’t coddle him and keeps him grounded throughout his ordeal. Without her, he would have surely been lost in his turmoil, forever grieving for the son he lost.
The Last Photograph’s screenplay was written by Simon Astaire, which is based on his book of the same name. Written about the day of the tragic flight of Pan Am Flight 103 where 270 souls were lost, it draws a singular picture of how a tragedy, while most are sitting comfortably in their living rooms watching on the television, actually effects each and every person connected with the catastrophe.
The disjointed storytelling, Tom’s anger and fixation with the photograph, the switching from black and white to colour, all lend to the misery one feels when one is deep in the trenches of grief. The pain is all consuming and instead of crawling into the foetal position like most would like to do, searching for the photograph somehow gives Tom’s life purpose again. Without it he would just be another grieving father, but with it, he is a man on a mission. Recovering it would be the world to him, but then would come the realisation that he is alone, and his son is truly gone.
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The movie does well to pay homage to the actual victims of the place crash, including actual names, and the monument erected in their honour. It also uses actual footage of the wreckage, the police and ambulances, which certainly adds to the realness and awful disaster that was caused by terrorists on the 21st December 1988. Those alive during that time certainly remember that day, and it is surreal to hear so many have lost their lives, and then to be confronted with a single life and all those who are affected by just one. Adding in the other 269 losses, it is overwhelming to even ponder the far-reaching grief that was caused.
With Astaire’s story, and Huston’s direction and acting, this movie truly brings to life actual loss and creates this horrible character, Grief, that everyone must face at one time or another and how one man navigates around it.
The Last Photograph is available to download and stream on 26th April from all leading digital platforms.