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By Merle Bertrand | January 25, 2001

The British are legendary for their impeccable politeness. Tanya (Dina Korzun), a beautiful Russian emigre, and her headstrong ten year-old son Artiom (Artiom Strelnikov) discover, however, that politeness makes dealing with implacable stubbornness and the slow grind of bureaucracy no less frustrating.
When Tanya’s English fiancee fails to meet them at the Customs office, she seeks refugee status for her and Artiom in a panic, never realizing the Pandora’s box of red tape into which she’s blundered.
Under police escort, Tanya and Artiom are taken to a dilapidated high rise, part of the equally dilapidated resort of Stonehaven. There, they’re to await the government’s granting of asylum; a process that could take anywhere from three months to over a year. Bureaucratic inefficiency, it seems, is a constant no matter the form of government.
When Tanya and Artiom discover that they’re not allowed to leave their immediate surroundings, they realize that a prison is a prison, even if it does come complete with its own amusement park. Desperate for money to pay for a smuggler to get her back out of the country, Tanya even considers stripping for money on an internet porn site operated by the comically sleazy Les (Lindsey Honey).
The only ray of sunshine penetrating this English gloom is Alfie (Paddy Considine), the kindly park owner, who’s immediately smitten by Tanya. Alfie works hard to win over the heartbroken refugee, befriending the sly and shrewd Artiom first. Gradually, he eases the threesome into something resembling a family, knowing all along that this Russian love of his life might be as stubborn in her desire to flee as the British are politely determined to keep her there.
Proof that romance can happen even in the grimmest of surroundings and under the least likely of circumstances, director Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Last Resort” is a low-key love story which uses its amusement park location to great effect. Whereas amusement parks are usually a place to escape the world’s problems, here, no matter how warm and inviting DP Ryszard Lenczewski makes the video arcade, no matter how colorful the rides’ twinkling lights, the park simply becomes an extension of the high-rise’s confinement. Even on their first “date,” Tanya accompanies Alfie to the arcade’s Bingo parlor, where he calls out the numbers to retirees and senior citizens wearing a cheesy tux.
Strelnikov nearly steals the show; his street-smart character demonstrating a biting, perfectly timed dry wit to accompany a wisdom far more advanced than his age. Korzun and Considine, meanwhile, grace Pawlikowski’s film with soothing, self-assured and incredibly genuine performances. Together, they make the gently melancholy “Last Resort” an unabashed, if subdued ode to star-crossed lovers everywhere.

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