Last Film Show is a colorfully shot, expressive portrait of growing to love the art of filmmaking, showcasing the magic and majesty of movies.
Last Film Show is very clearly a love letter to cinema and its unique ability to tell stories. The film opens with a dedication to some of the masters of the art form, including David Lean and Andrei Tarkovsky, and ends with a voiceover sharing the names of many vital and influential directors from around the world. This personal love of film is etched into every frame of Last Film Show. It’s also expressed in the narrative, as we follow the burgeoning passion for cinematic storytelling in Samay (Bhavin Rabari), a nine year old boy.
We learn early on that Samay has an active imagination and penchant for storytelling, relaying stories of heroes and battles to his close group of friends. Samay’s father is very traditional and would rather him be more focused on work and studies, but Samay’s innate curiosity and excitement toward life cannot be contained. Things change when Samay’s family goes to see a movie. His father is critical of the film industry and thinks films are of little value, only bringing the family to see one because it’s a religious picture. Even so, Samay is blown away. The ginormous images of people towering above him, the communal experience of viewing art, he clearly falls in love with movies at this very moment.
This inciting moment leads Samay to developing a friendship with Fazal (Bhavesh Shrimali), the projectionist at the theater. As Samay’s knowledge of film grows, so does his need to create his own DIY film theater. Thus, he and his friends set out on an adventure, stealing film canisters, learning how light works, and building their own projector.
Director Pan Nalin shows all this with a sense of childlike wonder and natural beauty, capturing simple, everyday moments that make the characters and world feel real and lived-in. At the same time, he contrasts the naturalism of Samay’s village with the colorful splendor of the movie theater, with its stylish, multi-colored lights and overall radiance. Occasionally, the visuals feel like they’re trying too hard to be gorgeous, but most of the time, they are welcomingly stylized and entrancing.
Last Film Show is truly a labor of love and a film dedicated to the art of cinema. It yearns for those carefree days spent goofing off with friends, discovering new concepts, and best of all, watching movies projected on film. It also stands out due to its cast of solid child actors, especially Rabari’s compelling performance as Samay. He has a naturalistic and wide-eyed presence that really captures Samay’s love of life and movies. Even if the story can be predictable and broadly drawn at times, Last Film Show succeeds as a reminder for why we love movies, and captures the pure magic of the collective viewing experience.
Last Film Show premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 10, 2021, and will be released in select US theaters on December 2, 2022, and on digital on December 9.