The Last Ones


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Last Ones
"The whole place feels dislocated, not just in its sense of place but also of time." | Photo: Courtesy of Glasgow Film Festival

Sadness and a sense of unease pervade this Western-inflected drama from Estonian director Veiko Õunpuu, which is set in a outpost of Finland that feels as though it is just beyond the edge of nowhere. It is here in this small community - dominated by men, with all the problems that brings with it - that the commercial drive of mining is coming up against the more traditional reindeer herding way of life, although both are threatening to either crumble or, possibly, explode.

It's not just the choice of employment, everything here has the feel of being caught between one thing and another, including Rupi (Pääru Oja), who works for the mines but whose ageing and infirm father (Sulevi Peltola) is flatly refusing to sell his land to unpleasant mining boss Kari (Tommi Korpela, who has a wiry magnetism that recalls Willem Dafoe). Rupi is also hovering between the legal and the illegal, with a sideline in drug dealing and is increasingly torn about the attraction he feels for Riitta (Laura Birn), the wife of his friend  Lievonen (Elmer Bäck). Riitta is almost like a siren for the community, sticking out not just because she is a young woman but also because of her outspoken attitude - and when Kari also starts to look at her as more than an employee, we don't need Sven Grünberg's dissonant score to tell us that trouble is brewing.

Copy picture

The whole place feels dislocated, not just in its sense of place but also of time. There's little for the community to do but work and then throw themselves into a bleakly manufactured hedonism in their off-hours, dancing to music that seems to have become caught in aspic somewhere around the turn of the Nineties.

The sound design, which has an industrial edge, feeds the general sense of disquiet as the tensions mount below and above ground. You can't fault Õunpuu for his grip on the mood setting and slow build but he doesn't have quite the same control when things get messy, throwing the story into a melodrama that doesn't serve it particularly well in its final third. Still, this remains a compelling watch that also captures the majesty of a landscape that offers an enduring beauty beyond the futile scheming of its inhabitants.

Reviewed on: 28 Feb 2021
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The Last Ones packshot
A struggling mine owner supplies his workers with drugs so they'll forget a tough existence. Nearby, a small community of reindeer breeders also struggles.

Director: Veiko Õunpuu

Writer: Heikki Huttu-Hiltunen, Eero Tammi

Starring: Pääru Oja, Laura Birn, Tommi Korpela, Elmer Bäck, Sulevi Peltoli

Year: 2020

Runtime: 117 minutes

Country: Finland, Estonia, Netherlands


Glasgow 2021

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