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Last Chance Harvey – Movie Review

March 15, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Last Chance Harvey is a film that has a lot going for it. Right off the bat, you have Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson as the leads. Surrounding their every move is the exciting city of London. Now, toss in the distinct pleasure of watching a film that actually embraces the possibility of romance between two characters that are about twice the age of most actors in similar roles.

The Harvey in the film’s title is Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman). He’s a divorced commercial jingle writer from New York. Harvey is a serious musician at heart, but has compromised his creative ambitions in order to compose those peppy numbers we’ve come to expect during the advertisements between our favorite TV shows.

Harvey’s “last chance” is Kate Walker (Emma Thompson). She works as a “statistics collector” at Heathrow Airport. Kate is always “on the go”, rushing to work, taking care of her elderly mother, attending literature courses and, ultimately, never slowing down long enough to allow herself to get emotionally wounded.

Their paths cross when Harvey travels “across the pond” to attend his daughter’s wedding. Although this ought to be a joyful event, there are several pianos dangling over Harvey’s head. Firstly, his position at work is at a breaking point. This makes it the absolute worst time to have to take a trip out of the country. Secondly, his relationships with his daughter, ex-wife and the majority of the guests at the wedding are strained. He’s the odd man out and he knows it.

In Kate’s world, things are no less complicated. Her mother, a recent cancer survivor, is convinced that her new neighbor is a likely serial killer and she’s also obsessed with Kate’s virtually non-existent love life. Kate’s blind dates and clumsy attempts at love matches fall flat on their face as well. The one constant in her life, the airport gig, subjects her to tired passengers who just don’t want to be bothered. It’s no wonder she buries her face in trashy romance novels as a distraction.

With circumstances like these, people often find themselves in bars. That’s exactly where Harvey and Kate officially meet. At first, it’s a rocky pairing. It’s more than just a simple clash of cultures. They feel desperate and frustrated with their circumstances. But somewhere in the recesses of their souls, they also ache for some kind of connection. Perhaps that’s what leads them to share a meal. But even that’s not easy. They eat at separate tables and talk from across the way.

What follows is not hard to imagine. In fact, if you go into Last Chance Harvey hoping for surprises or to find something novel … I think you’ll be disappointed. If however, you’re willing to indulge your romantic streak and just take a lovely stroll along the River Thames with these two charming actors/characters, then I think you’ll end up smiling. You might even feel a few tugs at your heart strings.

There’s a sweetness about the relationship shared between these two weathered warriors of love.  They allow themselves to be vulnerable at a crossroads in their lives. They’re also charming, despite a lackluster script and direction. Much of the credit, I think, goes to the performers who light up the screen. It’s a genuine pleasure to see them spar, yield and blossom before our eyes. I can only hope that they will pair up again one day in an even better film.

Last Chance Harvey is Rated PG-13 for some profanity. It’s suitable for most audiences, but probably wouldn’t be of much interest to anyone who has not long since passed their teen years. If you’re in the mood for a slight romantic “dramedy” with fine performances and a picturesque ride through modern London, then I recommend this film to you.

Be well,


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