Filmmaker Kevin Henry’s Last Thoughts opens on the creation of the grave site headstone for Robert Henry, Kevin’s grandfather. Starting at the ending, as it were, the film then utilizes audio records made by Robert shortly before his death to narrate the remaining film as it explores Robert’s life and adventures through Robert’s own words and contemporary 16mm footage to expand upon the themes and stories expressed.
While this approach isn’t entirely unique, AJ Schnack’s brilliant Kurt Cobain About a Son used a similar technique, I’m happy to say that it manages to work. The fact is that everyone who has ever lived has a story to tell. Whether you find their story interesting or compelling is open to your own opinion, which is going to be where this film diverges in value for the audience. Unlike Schnack’s film, this one doesn’t come with a personality that is already a celebrity with a certain interest built-in for the audience, but that doesn’t mean that the film can’t be, or isn’t, interesting.
For some, I’m sure the question will be something along the lines of “what is so special about Robert Henry that I should be watching a movie about him?” For me, that was not as much of a consideration, for the inherent value of one’s life story mentioned above, and my belief that, even if this was solely a memorial love letter from a grandson to his grandfather, there’s something to be enjoyed in that as well.
Whether I was on board with the full duration of the film is another story, however, mainly because the stories and words from Robert are not as prevalent or as ongoing as I would have liked, and maybe there’s a stronger satisfaction here, for me, in a shorter format with a more consistent commentary. At the same time, maybe in theory that’s sound, but in practice it would’ve been too overwhelming. Additionally, who am I to say how much time should be dedicated to a memory of a person’s life?
Overall, though, this isn’t just a reflection on one man’s life as it is also a historical record of the Great Depression, train-hopping adventures and the personalities and experiences that made up that time. And considering the type of economic climate current today, the specific stories and instances from this world wind up resonating on a far more universal level than might first be expected.
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