Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Last Stop In Yuma County (2023) Film Review
The Last Stop In Yuma County
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
As Hollywood repeatedly evidences, it’s possible to have a talented cast, a big budget and every practical advantage, and yet turn out one dull, forgettable film after another. The one thing you can’t buy is vision, and a director with a clear vision who is able to bring it to life, even with modest means, will always make a bigger impression. The Last Stop In Yuma County tells a simple story but does so in an extraordinary way. It’s a film you won’t forget for a long, long time.
It begins simply enough, when a knife salesman (Jim Cummings) pulls in at a gas station on his way across country to see his daughter, Sarah. Unfortunately for him, the fuel truck is late and the station is all out, so its owner, Vernon (Faizon Love), an easy going guy who lives on site with his dog, recommends that he wait in the diner next door and enjoy a piece of pie. it’s not the best place to be stuck because the diner’s air conditioning has brokem down (not for the first time), but waitress Charlotte (Jocelin Donahue) is friendly and cheers him up. He starts work on a crossword. On the news, we hear that two fugitives in a green car have been seen leaving the scene of a bank robbery in the nearest town. Then a green car pulls into the lot.
You can see where this is going. Before long, the knife salesman and the waitress find themselves hostages, forbidden to say anything to anyone unless they want people to die. The fugitives are pretty nervous themselves, and increasingly so as the diner fills up with other people stuck waiting for gas – none of them with vehicles sufficiently well fuelled to be worth stealing for a getaway. An older couple sit and eat, one of them busy with her knitting. A police officer barely out of his teens stops by for coffee to go. A local Native man makes himself comfortable at the counter. A young couple drive in from the desert: a floppy-haired, jumpy boy with big ideas and his skinny red-haired girlfriend, who imagines them as a modern day Bonnie and Clyde.
It’s eminently clear that, sooner or later, something is going to go wrong. What writer/director Francis Galluppi does very effectively in the meantime is to show us who all these people are, so that we’re invested in their survival. His portrait of the tight-knit local community is rounded out by scenes set in the Sheriff’s office down the road, with the young officer linking the two locations. There we meet the Sheriff, a man who seems lackadaisical at first but who will prove remarkably perceptive once his training kicks in, and his receptionist, a cameo role for Barbara Crampton. The lighthearted banter in the office contrasts neatly with the atmosphere in the diner, where every new twist manages to make the situation worse. But this is only the beginning. The final act of the film will see it veer off in a completely different direction, with moral choices, rather than mere survival, abruptly coming to the fore.
Handsomely produced, with careful colour grading which makes it look much more expensive than it is, the film also benefits from perfect pacing and finely balanced performances. The cast are uniformly wonderful and every character has a distinct personality, even if they only get a few minutes of screentime. Even the dog and, at the very end, a little bird manage to deliver memorable work. Comparisons to the work of the Coen brothers are well earned, but The Last Stop In Yuma County never feels like an imitation. It’s a singular piece of work, by turns funny, thrilling, full of heart and heart-rendingly tragic. Recently screened at Fantastic Fest, it’s one of the best films of 2023 and should not be missed.Reviewed on: 30 Sep 2023
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