Last Chance Charlene Image

In the dramatic comedy, Last Chance Charlene director-writer Tony Gapastione takes on the aftermath of suicide. Charlene (Allison Ewing) is an actor and screenwriter struggling in her career and personal life. Her beloved brother Dominick (Tony Gapastione) committed suicide less than a year ago, and she’s still in denial, reeling from the shock and loss. Her refusal to face Dominick’s death ruins her marriage, burgeoning career, and friendships. Everyone around her is beginning to process the tragedy and move on, but Charlene’s insistence on not accepting it has her firmly stuck in that moment of horrifying grief. She’s so traumatized that she hallucinates Dominick appearing and speaking to her; even his spectral manifestation tells her it’s time to begin healing.

Charlene’s husband, Raul (Jeremy Ray Valdez), has taken their two young daughters to stay with his sister in order to give her some space. This translates to him not wanting them around while Mommy has a full-on nervous breakdown. Charlene is trying to keep her brother’s design business afloat, care for her aging mother, Lorenna (Alley Mills), and stay connected with Ayla (Kayla Robinson), her pregnant sister-in-law, while at the same time avoiding her. The imminent birth of Ayla’s baby is inescapable proof of the march of time since Dominick’s death.

Charlene is trying mightily to hold it together and failing spectacularly. The script she’s shopping around deals with suicide. She’s trying to sell Hollywood, the phoniest place on Earth, on the experience of an authentic emotional challenge. Her pitch meetings with producers go as you’d expect. They want more films about dogs. She’s also trying out for parts, and her agent is at her wit’s end trying to get her to give a decent audition.

“…Dominick committed suicide less than a year ago, and [Charlene’s] still in denial…”

Last Chance Charlene sees Charlene travel down a stubborn path toward her inevitable destruction or renaissance. On this journey, she crosses paths with many well-meaning people who want to help her or help themselves in classic L.A. fashion. Solipsism often masquerades as compassion here. Charlene meets Dino (Cameron James Matthews), a friendly young actor who’s more eager to help than he is capable. Her friend, Cleo (Maral Milani), is a gorgeous, talented actress who’s starting to have success, but her advice boils down to “be as pretty and gifted as me.” Charlene has the most complicated relationship with her mother, and the two of them butt heads constantly over how she should conduct her life.

Gapastione gives us a layered, thoughtful look at someone dealing (or not dealing, in this case) with tragedy. He artfully delivers rich moments of humor and heartfelt connection entangled with Charlene’s pathos. Ewing’s performance elevates the film and keeps it from bogging down in the sadness that could easily overwhelm the viewer. Her supporting cast delivers intense performances as well, and the film succeeds on their strength. Overall, the production quality is solid, with a moving soundtrack and engaging cinematography.

If the film has room for improvement, the edit could be tighter. Some scenes are repetitive. At an hour and 55-minutes, there are 30 more minutes of Charlene’s angst than is strictly necessary. However, this is a minor point given that Last Chance Charlene delivers a powerful character study of tragedy seen through a comic lens. In the end, we are rooting for Charlene to find a moment of peace and happiness finally.

For more information, visit the Last Chance Charlene official website.

Last Chance Charlene (2022)

Directed and Written: Tony Gapastione

Starring: Allison Ewing, Alley Mills, Jeremy Ray Valdez, Ava Gulick, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Last Chance Charlene Image

"…a powerful character study of tragedy seen through a comic lens."

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