Combustible Celluloid
With: Rhys Ifans, John Malkovich, Rodrigo Santoro, Romola Garai, Tony Hale, Zosia Mamet
Written by: Steven Bernstein
Directed by: Steven Bernstein
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 101
Date: 11/25/2020

Last Call (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Dying of the Light

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This biopic tells of the delirious final days of the great poet Dylan Thomas, best known for "Do not go gentle into that good night," but loved by me for A Child's Christmas in Wales. Directed by Steven Bernstein, the movie is a crazy-quilt slideshow of images, memories, and hallucinations, most in black-and-white, but some in color. The framing device has Thomas (Rhys Ifans) — who is on an epic tour, reading poetry to adoring crowds of college girls — wandering into a bar early in the day. Over the course of the day and into the night, downing 18 shots, naming each drink after an experience or an emotion, and generally holding court. A clever bartender (Rodrigo Santoro) subtly takes him down a few pegs with his quotations of other great writers, while his handler (Tony Hale) frets over the status of his manuscript, the only copy of which he has given to Thomas to critique. Meanwhile, Thomas's wife Caitlin (Romola Garai) waits in vain for him to send money home to support his family. John Malkovich plays a doctor who lets Thomas know in the slyest way possible that maybe he should stop drinking. The black-and-white is appealing, but also carries a desperation. It feels closed-in, and it's certainly a downer. But when Ifans reads Thomas's work at the microphone, all the stuff everyone says about him comes to life — as genius leaps off the page.

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