There are very few love films that even remotely stray away from the beaten path. They usually involve two young adults who fall in love, have some sort of catastrophe, but eventually find each other and live happily ever after. Though still a love story, Last Chance Harvey does take a right turn from the norm, and creates a story that has been told a million times, yet still seems fresh, and more importantly, moving.
In Last Chance Harvey, we see the lives of two two different people. Harvey, an older, divorced song writer, is a man who has become disenfranchised from his own life. He works in a career he doesn’t enjoy, has no one to share his life, and is one step away from being let go from his department in lieu of a younger team. Kate, a semi-anti social career woman, has never really found someone she could spend her life with, and has basically accepted a life without love. Both of their lives become intertwined, when Harvey has to fly to London to see his daughter get married, and the two have a chance encounter. Together, they both confront the problems within their lives, and learn there is always a chance at love.
What I found particularly amazing about this film is the stories behind the characters, as well as the structure of the characters themselves. Instead of having the typical young lovers, we have two very complicated, older people. Harvey is an older man for sure, having a daughter who’s in her mid to late twenties. He’s lost control of everything, and every situation you see in the movie makes you feel for him. One disheartening event after another simply drops your heart. Kate has an overbearing mother who requires constant attention, as well as a polling business that she is in charge of maintaining. Though not as old as Harvey, is still at an age that most love stories wouldn’t even consider focusing on her. The story becomes so much more powerful because of this. It shows the audience that no matter how late in life, no matter how complicated your situation might be, it is never too late to find the one you are meant for.
The cast does an amazing job in the film. You cannot go wrong when your two main stars are Academy Award Winners. Dustin Hoffman, one of the industry’s all time best actors, brings the level of emotional intensity he always does. His portrayal of Harvey is another credit to the amount of talent he has. Emma Thompson is also superb in her role as Kate. She is so into the character that you almost forget that she isn’t Kate herself.
Though a fantastic film, it is not without its own pitfalls. When it comes to setting the stage, Kate becomes somewhat lost to the audience. The film sets the story by showing the lives of Harvey and Kate just a short time before their meeting. It divides the time between the both of them, showing Harvey at his lowest moments, and vice versa. Unfortunately, Harvey’s plight is so deep, that when Kate’s own sad situations come up, they seem far less intense as Harvey’s, making it hard to feel as strongly for both characters as one might like. Also, as with all movies, there is a dramatic event that threatens the future for both characters. The turn in this film is very stereotypical and something you can see coming from a mile away, thus not causing the emotional intensity the audience might hope for.
The DVD extras are not worth much attention. There is a ‘the making of’ film, and audio commentary from writer/director Joel Hopkins, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. One nice bonus is the movie is packaged with both the widescreen and standard versions of the film, a plus to those mixed preference audiences.
Last Chance Harvey is definitely worth watching. It is a great movie with so much going for it: powerful story, amazing characters, spectacular acting and is a fresh take on the oldest story ever told. Whether it is for a date night or just casual watching, pick it up.
Movie: B+, DVD: C+