Eye For Film >> Movies >> Stella's Last Weekend (2018) Film Review
Stella's Last Weekend
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Stella is 13. Though visibly an old dog, now taken on 'walks' in a crate, she still enjoys life and is a much loved part of her family, but she has begun to lose control of her bowels every night and the vet doesn't think her prognosis looks good. With this in mind, Sally (Polly Draper) plans to throw one last party for her, inviting dogs from around the neighbourhood. Her two sons, Jack and Oliver (played by Draper's own sons, Nat Wolff and Alex Wolff) are ready to help, and her boyfriend Ron (Nick Sandow) is doing what he can to provide moral support.
There's natural chemistry between the three related cast members and it carries over very effectively into the film, in turn emphasising Ron's awkward outsider status. Jack has been away, living independently, and his return prompts jostling for position between the two brothers. Though it's clear that their love runs deep, high schooler Alex has become comfortable having his mother all to himself, which has also set him at odds with Ron. He's at an age when he's all about making obnoxious jokes and noising up random women in the street, and in his presence, his brother slides back into the same kind of behaviour, but things get more serious when they fall for the same girl.
Life changing romances formed over single weekends are never very convincing, no matter how often Hollywood throws them at us, so it helps that Draper (who also wrote and directed the film) has provided a bit of background to make the young men's feelings more substantial. Alex has been dating Violet (Paulina Singer) for a little while. Jack had an encunter with her in the past which he has been romanticising ever since. She's young and confused and doesn't know how to handle the situation. At the local amusement park, Jack wins her an octopus in just two goes; Alex devotes the whole evening to winning her a bunny. Naturally the situation lads to trouble, but along the way we are invited to get to know each of these young people (Violet is quiet but Singer nonetheless makes her presence felt) and see something of the milieu in which they grew up.
With nicely observed relationship complications between the adults as well, this is a romcom of sorts that's really more focused on familial love and on exploring character. Backgrounded for most of the film, Stella (played with remarkable patience by a dog of the same name) is a recipient of he sort of habitual love whose value is often underestimated, everybody caring for her without hesitation yet also continuing to take her for granted. One is left wondering how well the humans will get along without her; yet this is a picture not of some attempt to find status, but of lives in flux whose intersections are no less important for it. Though it doesn't always hit the mark, it's sometimes very sweet, and its appeal will extend beyond the dog lovers in the audience.Reviewed on: 08 Oct 2018