Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Last Resort (2000)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Last Resort (2000)
35mm, 77 minutes, colour
DirectorPawel Pawlikowski
Production CompanyBBC Films
ProducerRuth Caleb
Written byPawel Pawlikowski
CinematographyRyszard Lenczewski
EditorDavid Charap
MusicMax De Wardener

Cast: Dina Korzun (Tanya); Paddy Considine (Alfie); Artiom Strelnikov (Artiom); Lindsey Honey (Les)

Show full cast and credits

A Russian woman, abandoned by her English fiancé, finds herself stuck with her son in an asylum camp in a deserted seaside resort. Vulnerable and friendless, she develops a relationship with an amusement arcade manager who seems to offer hope of escape.

Show full synopsis

Shot through with the desperation and grim humour suggested by its punning title, Last Resort details the waiting game played by refugees in a seaside town, as their applications for asylum are processed. In his BAFTA-winning film, Warsaw-born director Pawel Pawlikowski, whose previous work includes Twockers (1998), captures the idiosyncrasies of this community of refugees with a clear eye for human behaviour. He studies these characters with the same unflinching precision as the CCTV cameras which thwart escape attempts from Stonehaven.

Pawlikowski presents Stonehaven as a town of bare walls, empty beaches and endless yet oppressive sky: a dreary landscape of absence and silence, which cinematographer Ryszard Lenczewski describes using an appropriately drab palette of blues and greys. This bleak setting is accentuated by occasional splashes of colour, such as the tropical beach scene adorning Tanya's threadbare room and the garish lights of the slot machines in Alfie's arcade.

In a similar fashion, Pawlikowski interrupts the film's sober tone with moments of incongruous comedy. In an early scene, Artiom reads cheery phrases from an English guidebook while he and his mother await their uncertain fate in a depressing airport lounge. Later, Tanya cringes with embarrassment when she and Alfie watch a David Attenborough-narrated documentary about mating whales. Other humorous exchanges cut deeper: when Alfie suggests that Tanya sell one of her kidneys to make some extra money, a beat passes before we realise he's joking. While predominantly haunting and mournful, Max De Wardener's score also conjures a strange sense of comedy from its languid appropriation of fairground refrains.

Like Twockers, Last Resort relies on natural performances from many non-actors, including real-life blue movie mogul Steve Perry (aka Ben Dover). Perry delivers a chilling turn as the sleazy and opportunistic Les, one of many characters exploiting the refugees' needs. Surprisingly, perhaps, the film doesn't dwell on the individual cases of the many asylum seekers populating Stonehaven. Pawlikowski seems just as interested in the motivation of characters, like the ex-con Alfie, who have sought out the town's dreary inertia as an escape from a past they'd rather forget.

Pawlikowski extracts sincere performances from his three main stars and convincingly charts Alfie and Tanya's tentative romance through intimate snatches of conversation. His even-handed, sensitive treatment of the material ensures the emotional impact of the closing minutes and an uncomfortably ambiguous closing scene.

Chris Wiegand

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Welcome to Britain (2:24)
2. Armpit of the universe (0:58)
3. Bingo night (2:30)
4. A great escape (2:56)
O Dreamland (1956)
Gas Attack (2001)
Sex Traffic (2004)
Considine, Paddy (1974-)
Social Realism