My Last Friend


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

My Last Friend
"A scenario that can all too easily become self-indulgent, and it unfortunately does."

The warning bells are there from the start, as Hector Babenco begins his final film before his death in 2016 with an intertitle statement: "What you are about to watch is a story that happened to me and I present it in the way that I know best." A personal story, then, a scenario that can all too easily become self-indulgent, and it unfortunately does here as we get a fictionalised account of Babenco's earlier battle with the cancer that would later take his life.

Also, this film was completed and premiered in 2015 and features no less a talent than the ever-reliable Willem Dafoe, and yet here we are, in 2019, a name change from My Hindu Friend to My Last Friend later, and the film was still being touted in the market place at Cannes. Perhaps the hope is that with Dafoe's profile firmly in the ascendant after The Florida Project, At Eternity's Gate and, Cannes buzz film The Lighthouse, that his star quality will help it to see the light of day.

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The Hindu, or Last if you prefer, Friend of the title, is a little boy director Diego Fairman (Dafoe) founds a bond with during his chemotherapy treatment but the child is little more than an after-thought and sympathy generator for what amounts to a Me Show. To be fair, Babenco has no intention of portraying his alter ego as a saint, his womanising ways are to the fore here as we see him agree to go for a bone marrow transplant, his brother reluctant to help him survive.

The story is peppered with the sort of devices that Dennis Potter employed to such great effect in the likes of Pennies From Heaven and The Singing Detective, as characters break from the naturalism of their surroundings into song or surreal asides, but Babenco - though having some fun with an imagined messenger of death (Selton Mello as a character billed as Common Man) and Chess - doesn't sufficiently commit to them, so they never find their own rhythm.

Equally, the decision to script the film in English, although making things easier for Dafoe, makes things immeasurably more difficult for the Latin Americans in the cast, who come across as stilted. There are moments, too - such as when one character says, "You mean you no longer want to be beside me?" - when the whole thing has the air of having been run through Google translate. Dafoe certainly dedicates himself to the material and the shadowy cinematography from Mauro Pinheiro Jr emphasises every cheek and bone hollow of its sick central character, but the project as a whole is too self-absorbed to be absorbing for anyone else.

Reviewed on: 03 Aug 2019
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My Last Friend packshot
A self-obsessed director battles cancer - and makes an unexpected friend on the way.

Director: Hector Babenco

Writer: Hector Babenco, Guilherme Moraes Quintella

Starring: Willem Dafoe, Maria Fernanda Cândido, Reynaldo Gianecchini, Selton Mello, Bárbara Paz, Guilherme Weber, Dan Stulbach, Gilda Nomacce, Tuna Dwek, Tania Khalill, Maitê Proença, Dalton Vigh, Supla, Ary Fontoura, Rio Adlakha

Year: 2015

Runtime: 124 minutes

Country: Brazil


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