Giving a film the illusion of being shot in one-take is a growing technique in Hollywood. Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins created an incredibly immersive and seamless one-take effect in “1917”. Alejandro G. Iñárritu also captured the single-take aesthetic in “Birdman”. But in the new film “Last Call” director Gavin Michael Booth takes the one-shot term literally in his emotionally gripping real-time story of a chance encounter. Booth shoots two single takes filmed simultaneously in separate parts of the city and plays them together with split-screen for the duration.
It all starts with a misdial and over the course of little more than an hour both lives will be forever changed. Daved Wilkins plays Scott, an alcoholic father mourning on the anniversary of his son’s death. Sarah Booth plays Beth a single mother working as a night custodial at a community college. When this grieving man attempts to dial a suicide hotline, he’s connecting to this woman working her shift by mistake. As the film opens each side of this story begins. They play out in unison as the conversation naturally evolves and from there the emotional intrigue does as well. As the viewer you are immediately pulled into the situation with this woman who went from working her shift one minute, to trying to instill hope in a man that has seemingly lost it all the next.
This is where the film thrives on its other elements. Creating a film with this method certainly is no easy task. What the filmmakers created here was without question unique, ambitious, and refreshing as a fan of cinema. But without that substance in the story itself, this technique would not have been able to carry the film alone. The writing and the performances, as unassuming as both were on their own, together create a sincere, gripping level of intrigue.
As the viewer you get to know both characters over the course of the run-time forming a surprisingly strong connection to them. Scott slowly opens up about his feelings and his grief as Beth takes it all in with a level of shock. You can sympathize with the trauma of his past, easily being able to feel and sense how this man is dangerously close to ending it all. You can also easily gravitate to the compassion Beth has for a complete stranger. An endearing quality that tells you a lot about her character, without actually telling you.
As this unsuspecting bond forms between two random strangers it isn’t long before you want her to keep him from ending his life, as much as she does. It created a genuine emotional investment in the story. With no sub-plots or added characters, you take the brunt of the dramatic swings with them and it was intense. The dialogue was sincere, grounded, and not over embellished for the sake of cinematic story-telling. Mirroring the real-time progression of the narrative, is a subject-matter that also had a strong realistic vibe to it.
The characters were human, they never felt like actors, and it gave the film that raw dramatic tone it needed. Delivering dialogue was in a sense the easy part for the actors and they were top-notch with a heartfelt chemistry between one another. But for the entire run-time they are on-screen together, without being together. The timing between Booth and Wilkins showcases plenty of effort in creating that realism of the situation they find themselves in and it was riveting as the viewer.
Crafting something inventive in the world of cinema is not an easy task but that is without question what “Last Call” delivers. It sweeps you up and takes you on a ride that explores the beauty of the human spirit on one side, and the depths of despair from past mistakes made on the other. It will warm your heart one minute and crumble it the next. Yet it never feels melodramatic and when the final-act hits its peak, the dramatic energy it slams you with will have you thinking long after the film is over.