Chattanooga 2023 Review: THE LAST MOVIE EVER MADE Delights in Filmmaking, Wallows in Drama

Nathan Blackwell wrote and directed the indie film.

Contributing Writer; Chicago, IL (@anotherKyleL)
Chattanooga 2023 Review: THE LAST MOVIE EVER MADE Delights in Filmmaking, Wallows in Drama

It makes almost no sense, and also makes every bit of sense, that writer/director Nathan Blackwell has been making movies for more than two decades.

His latest effort, The Last Movie Ever Made, isn’t especially well lit; sure, the audience can see everything on screen at all times but there’s a flatness that feels as if no one bothered to work on lights beyond “can we see?” The acting ranges from serviceable to actively bad. The dramatic scenes fail to land, both because of the slightly wooden performances and the rife with cliche relationship drama beats that are being played. And yet, there’s an infectious joy in the film.

In a way some of those “defects” become some of the best things about The Last Movie Ever Made. Dallas Teat’s performance as cinematographer Ernie makes his few previous acting credits, including several appearances on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in 1974, a shock. Yet Ernie becomes the most believable and emotionally resonant character in the entire film.

The general feeling that the actors are non-actors (Teat has a healthy career as a videographer and teacher of videography) and loving amateurs who are friends of the filmmaker lends the film a sort of meta level beauty. It’s a movie about amateur filmmakers made by amateur filmmakers. And for the most part, there’s something really wonderful about that.

The Last Movie Ever Made begins in a world that looks like our own, but soon a clear, English-accented voice rings in the head of every person on (or off) Earth informing them that their world is a simulation and will collapse in 30 days. It’s a fantastic black comedy set-up, and the first few scenes of the film play some of the hits of this kind of nihilistic humor well, as people participate in orgies and begin to strive for strange goals, like filling pools with jello.

The plot proper comes into place when our protagonist Marshall (Adam Rini) is clearing his home of the belongings that made up his life and discovers the old movies he and his friends made while in high school. They’re exactly the kind of thing you’d expect from teenage boys with big imaginations and few resources; riffs on popular movies with homemade props and performances built entirely on excitement. And they give Marshall purpose again, he wants to make one more movie before his universe disappears forever.

The scenes of Marshall getting people together to make the film are charming. He visits some of his old friends and puts the word out in his small community for any interested parties to join the film. In one of these scenes, The Last Movie Ever Made deftly introduces its most interesting and impactful theme (besides the power of cinema) of what we prioritize when we know our days our numbered, as we see Marshall beg his old director to join him for this final film, and his old friend says he’d rather spend the time with his wife and children.

Sadly, while the scenes of brainstorming ideas, creating props, shooting in a backyard with those homemade props, and more are magical, the commitment to creating real drama around them drags the film down. While the ideas around prioritization in final moments are solid, these ideas mostly come out in scenes between Marshall and his demanding mother, whose response to the impending death of the world is to throw one last holiday party for each holiday.

It’s unclear in those scenes whose side we’re meant to be on, as neither character is particularly sympathetic, and instead of lending emotional and thematic heft to the film, these scenes left me more confused than anything else. Less confusing, but perhaps more unnecessary, are the scenes between Marshall and his ex-wife Audrey (Megan Hughes), who never stopped loving each other and only divorced because he couldn’t have children.

There’s nothing wrong with that kind of plotline in a family drama, but in an often purposefully silly movie about the joys of making movies with your friends in a backyard, it feels out of place. The Last Movie Ever Made feels a bit long at a few minutes over an hour and half, and while none of the movie is bad, there's a shorter film here that could have been purely delightful.

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Chattanooga Film FestivalNathan BlackwellUS

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