Thanks to global climate collapse, the planet is on its way to mass extinction. Pockets of humanity remain, such as in Ireland, where the personal dramas of three very different men, Sloane (Don Baker), Smithy (Stephen Cromwell) and Dean (Neil Sheehy), will violently intersect in life-changing ways over the next few days.
Van Poynton’s The Late Men is not the type of film that holds your hand. Early on you may find yourself confused and maybe even getting a little frustrated with the narrative, as it always seems like there’s something important you need to know that you just haven’t been told yet. Since the film is also running three overlapping narratives at the same time, some uneasiness is to be expected. Stick it out, however, as it will all make sense by the end.
Which is not to say that it will all come together in a pleasant way, however. The film is a bleak tale, a mid-apocalypse story of a bunch of survivors doing their best to transcend the grime they’ve been left to rot in. Personal, selfish agendas are the only things that matter anymore, because the idea of a greater good is long gone; society is crumbling, life is short, things are probably not going to get better and no one seems to care anyway.
This somber mood of hopelessness is strengthened by the choice of black and white; nothing quite says “doomed” like a lack of color. That said, there are flashes of color here and there, done as effects to help certain elements stand out from the film’s contemporary realities, but nothing extensive. This is ominous in feel throughout.
So I know I’ve painted a picture of a potentially confusing and rather joyless experience, with nary a color for the eye to feast on, and that might not sound very appealing. It probably won’t help matters that many a character speaks in a thick Irish brogue, which can sometimes cause additional confusion if your ears aren’t friendly to it (and the audio mix sometimes waffles, so occasionally you really have to strain to follow along). I know it sounds like a tough sell, and frankly it is a tough sell, but, again, it is a film that really comes together by its final minutes.
The performances in the film are also strong, and the editorial touch is quite deft, considering all the threads it has to string together. Had the film been created with less capable hands, it might have been a confusing mess, but instead it maintains an engaging mystery. It’s an experience, not always a cheerful one, but I’ll take cinema that affects me over something I can’t feel any day.
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