Writer and Director: Aoife Crehan
Irish film tends to divide into two quite distinct camps; there’s gritty, often violent social realism and then there are the light, oddball comedies. Aoife Crehan’s new film, now available to stream via several platforms, is most certainly the latter, a strange road movie that is predictable and sentimental yet the journey itself throws up a few surprises in a story of two brothers who drive the length of Ireland with a corpse in a cardboard coffin.
On the plane to Dublin while transporting the body of his brother home for burial, Padraig Murphy strikes up an unwelcome conversation with Bostonian lawyer Daniel Murphy who he randomly names as his next of kin. When Padraig dies on the flight his body is delivered to Cork where Daniel is heading to reunite with autistic brother Louis after the death of their mother. With Padraig’s brother due to be buried in only a few days can Daniel reach Northern Ireland in time for the brothers to be laid to rest together?
The premise of Crehan’s film is pretty daffy, two parallel sets of grieving brothers, a rom com subplot and long road journey that results in the police on the trail of Daniel, Louis and tagalong Mary for corpse stealing and potentially holding-up a chip shop. The first Act is fairly slow, getting the frame in place, introducing lots of character context and conflicts to resolve, while ensuring they are all in the right place in time for the road trip to begin.
And while The Last Right (or should that be Rite) motors along comfortably in second gear for much of its 1 hour and 45-minute run-time, there’s something quite endearing about its bumbling silliness. There are enough little surprises and unexpected twists to weigh against the unconvincing plot developments and overall inevitability of it all, but in our newly isolated times Crehan’s film is sweet and watchable enough.
Much of that depends on the relationship between Daniel and Louis which holds the film together, virtual strangers separated by age and geography as the story begins who, through this bizarre journey, come to understand and accept each other a little better. Michiel Huisman is largely the straight man of the movie, an overly serious tax lawyer itching to get back to his real life in America and perplexed by this sudden turn of events. But Huisman creates enough investment in Daniel as the film goes, thawing his humourless exterior as he discovers the extent of his own humanity and care for his brother.
Samuel Bottomley as Louis is The Last Right’s most interesting character with plenty of personality traits that make sense of his world perspective. Louis’ love of order, routine and fear of the dark shape his outlook and Bottomley well conveys how grief affects his behaviour. The role of Mary played by Niamh Algar has a tangential storyline but she’s really there solely as love interest and to provide gender diversity, while there are small roles for Colm Meaney as the pursing detective and Brian Cox as Father Reilly but it leaves the esteemed actor little to get his teeth into.
The Last Right is at the more serious end of comedy-drama and – in a sign of how times have changed – never takes liberties with the seriousness of transporting the dead man back to his home, not even a hint of sitcom slapstick which suits the tone of the film. Crehan’s screenplay does enough to keep you watching, making this strange little road movie just worth the mileage.
Trailer available here: