Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Fire and smoke

Two very interesting and very well-made short films arrived on my virtual doorstep late last week. And they couldn’t be more different.

Any Last Words

When I saw the trailer for this movie, I was dead certain it was going to be a full-length feature. The aerial shots and the few intense moments with the main character, played by Graham Earley, had all the look of a very professional production and something we could settle into watching for a couple of hours in the cinema.

The actual running time, as it turns out, is 11 minutes. But the movie is by no means less powerful for that.

This is a film that is very much of the moment. Resentment continues to seethe in Ireland over the financial crisis that precipitated a major recession and resulting austerity. Just this past weekend there was a huge turnout to protest new water charges recently introduced by the government.

Earley’s character embodies this anger and frustration. Very reminiscent of a young Russell Crowe, he gives off the feeling of a grenade with the pin pulled. You can certainly view this movie as a political statement, but it does not come off at all as a mere political tract. Instead it very much feels like a thriller. And those sweeping shots of the Westmeath countryside give the film the look and feel of an epic. The very effective camera work and editing let us know that we are in the hands of skilled visual storyteller.

This is the directing debut of Craig Moore, who previously was a producer on Bertie Brosnan’s Jacob Wrestling with the Angel. I’d definitely love to see what he could do with a story in a longer format. Let’s hope that we get the chance.

You can view the trailer for Any Last Words on YouTube.

Hully Gully

Depending on which dictionary you consult, hully gully can refer to a go-for-broke roll of the dice or an unstructured line dance. I’ll go with the latter connotation since the couple in this 14-minute two-hander definitely have their own little verbal dance going on in a series of scenes, each roughly the length of a song.

Whereas Any Last Words was kinetic and fluid and full of explosive energy, this film’s characters generally stay in place and are framed for static shots. The filmmaker is our old friend Pablo D’Stair, and this film is in the same style as his longer movies, A Public Ransom and Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief. That is to say its look is monochrome, the shots are interesting and the action consists entirely of conversation. In other words, it is firmly in the spirit of European arthouse cinema.

The actors are D’Stair regulars Helen Bonaparte and Carlyle Edwards, who this time around sports an accent from (if I’m not mistaken) somewhere around London’s East End. The banter between them does not always make sense or follow logically—which is to say that there is something natural in it in that way that long-time couples develop their own patois for communicating.

Each of the vignettes is set to a song (as announced by title cards) by the Michigan garage band the Detroit Cobras. Not really a music video (since the characters talk over the music) but probably not the worst way to enjoy the band’s music either.

It turns out that the seemingly noir-obsessed D’Stair actually had a smoky, jaded romcom in him as well. Who knew?

-S.L., 3 November 2014

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