Last Orders is a seamless adaptation of Graham Swift’s Booker Prize-winning novel.It’s the tale of four working-class mates burying a fifth, and his widow. Without ado, writer-director Fred Schepisi shifts back and forth in time, gradually assembling each character’s history and adding layers of texture to their inter-relationships.
He’s assembled a team of prestige British players - Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins, Tom Courtenay, David Hemmings, Ray Winstone and Helen Mirren. The attention to detail in the casting of the younger counterparts is extraordinary. The actors in the flashbacks really feel - and look - like the adults at an earlier stage of their lives (casting Hemmings’ son and Winstone’s daughter helps). The effect is an overwhelming poignancy.
Schepisi’s screenplay sidesteps all the obvious tear jerking moments, so you feel genuine emotion at the heartfelt expressions of these ordinary people. For instance, Caine telling Mirren that she’s still beautiful is especially touching once we’ve seen how they met.
Last Orders is more about life than death. It’s thoughtful rather than sombre, with a gentle humour that prevents it ever being downbeat. Schepisi the director unfolds this intricate story with a relaxed but firm hand. Brian Tufano’s camera captures the look and feel of England past and present aided immeasurably by Celia Bobak’s lovely period set decoration.This is a film of small moments that combine to make up an unforgettably moving and complex whole.