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By Megan Bianco
Biopics, which aren’t foolproof with critics and audiences, are perplexing, because you would think it would be hard to mess up such a traditional screen formula. Fortunately, in the case of Steven Bernstein’s Last Call, I can say that the new biopic is generally a good feature, despite being shelved for almost five years.
Shot in both color and black and white, Last Call portrays the final days of legendary romantic poet Dylan Thomas (played by Rhys Ifans) as he is tortured by both his craft and alcoholism in Greenwich Village, New York in 1953. Throughout the film, we see Dylan leave his wife Caitlin (Romola Garai) and their children in Wales to tour and showcase his poems and other works on American college campuses and in arts centers. Dylan’s fellow writer and friend John Brinnin (Tony Hale) is constantly reminding the Welsh writer to edit a book Brinnin is writing.
There’s a lot to appreciate with Last Call. The whole cast is exceptionally memorable and impressive, especially Ifans as the lead. I wouldn’t say the period character piece is style over substance, but the quality of the movie does depend most on the performances and Bernstein’s artistic direction. The cinematographer-turned-director’s choice to have the Wales sequences be in color while all of the New York City scenes in black in white is clever, and the fantasy elements and non-linear structure between Dylan’s home life, poetry tours and car visits are fitting.
It’s too bad that Last Call was released in the middle of the unpredictable shuffle of 2020, because this is one of the more distinctive historical dramas to come out recently.