Review: The Last Film Show – Cinema India
Directed by Pan Nalin
Starring Bhavin Rabari, Bhavesh Shrimali, Dipen Raval
Trying to capture the magic of cinema projection in a poor area (with no electricity) is explored in this coming-of-age film. Young Samay (Bhavin Rabari) is captivated by the cinema experience, despite only ever been taken once or twice by his father. He soon develops a friendship with the cinema’s projectionist, Fazal (Bhavesh Shrimali), and they agree on a deal: Fazal gets some of Samay’s mother’s incredible food in exchange for Samay being able to watch films for free from the projectionist booth.
There’s some fun to be had with Samay and his friends trying to concoct their own cinema over time with the bare essentials: no electricity, just physical film, sunlight, various glassware and pedals, all the while teaching us the mechanics of how film projection works (not digital film, mind you).
There just needed to be a bit more spice in this low-key and somewhat pedestrian drama, like a bit more of that Spielbergian whimsy, a little more to the pacing, the cinematography techniques, and even a bit more in the score to better capture the excitement of childhood wonder.
Things improve for the film in its last act, with one sequence in particular that eschews dialogue being a pretty awesomely cinematic moment, which is highly ironic, given the sequence is about the destruction of cinema. This scene ties in with the final scene, showing the grim future for physical film, showing in a sombre manner the fate of the great filmmakers and storytellers of the screen.
Despite such a profoundly accomplished finale, the character arc that leads into it feels very questionable and contrived to be something of a feel-good ending. Samay is treated like he has academic potential, even though throughout the film he has shown more street smarts and hands-on knowledge.
The Last Film Show has its heart in the right place, not being just a love-letter (and eulogy) to cinema, but also being a sort of coming of age tale for a rapscallion boy whose love of this medium of storytelling teaches him how to be resourceful. Though it would’ve been nice if the film took more advice and inspiration from the filmmakers it name-drops by taking more chances and being more adventurous with its story and the paths the characters take.