Directed by Gavin Michael Booth and co-written with lead actor Daved Wilkins, who plays Scott, a bitterly alone man who tries to call a suicide prevention hotline but accidentally calls the local college, where Beth (Sarah Booth), the night janitor is the only one around to answer.
Deciding to have a split-screen for the entirety of your film while taking place in real time and with both being done in one take, is a risky move, people aren’t always receptive to unfamiliar styles but first and foremost it has to be said, that it works very well. Of course, split-screen and one takes are techniques that have been used by many filmmakers but rarely to the degree of implementing them from start to finish, having your two person cast never leave the lens. It gives you the opportunity to really embrace each side of the conversation and both of their lives, it can be frustrating when filmmakers only focus on one side of dialogue and restrict you from seeing their reactions and inflections but Booth cuts through that completely. There’s also part of the style that feeds into natural curiosity, wondering what life is like for a person with whom you have a random encounter or what they might be doing.
It’s then a given that if your film is only going to focus on these two people for 70-minutes of their day, you have to make those minutes count, there’s no cutting to other locations or characters to fall back on, if the dialogue doesn’t work, the whole thing goes out the window but again, it works very well. The film plays with the power of conversation, the surprising generosity of strangers, a willingness to help those in need and the value of a sympathetic ear. Scott and Beth are down to earth characters, played in a genuine and sincere manner by Wilkins and Booth, which is what’s compelling about this story, their emotions and struggles are wholly relatable and easy to sympathise with. There’s even a surprisingly comedic edge to the earlier moments of their conversation, that comes through naturally and does add an extra layer to what it has to offer. All of which is enhanced by using the score sparingly, allowing the conversation to be the sole focus, not forcing their emotions into the audience’s face but letting the viewer interpret it for themselves. However, it does come in full force when highlighting the story’s tension and enhancing the risks of the situation, which are moments extremely well supported by Adrian Ellis’ composition.
Perhaps one of the strongest elements when looking at the film as a whole, is that it has its feet rooted firmly in reality, it’s not looking to provide you with a slightly sad story that perfectly redeems itself. As the film moves forward, you dive more into Scott’s life, the reasons for his misery and how little he has left. It isn’t told in a monologue style fashion, bits and pieces come through as he tries repeatedly to avoid the subject that so clearly pains him, it’s moving and tragic. Another strength of the story is how stridently Beth tries to help and the moments where she’s forced to come up with creative ways of getting the information that she needs, it adds a little bit of variety rather than it just being a simple back and forth from beginning to end.
In making Last Call a split-screen, one take film, Gavin Michael Booth tried something different that really paid off, it’s engaging to always be able to see both sides of the story, it enriches their perspectives and personalities. The directorial choices perfectly reflect the intimacy of the story its telling and powerfully draw you in. Wilkins and Booth both give strong and sincere performances that push the down to earth style that the film has going for it. Ellis’ score intensifies the emotions and events at hand, building a satisfying tension and embracing the tone of the performances. It’s a touching story, that’s captivating to watch and delivers double the content without sacrificing the quality or visual.