Film / Last Orders

Last Orders is a 2001 British drama film written and directed by Fred Schepisi. The screenplay is based on the 1996 Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name by Graham Swift.

The film follows Ray (Bob Hoskins), Lenny (David Hemmings) and Vic (Tom Courtenay), as they travel to Margate to scatter the ashes of their friend, Jack Dodds (Michael Caine). Jack's son, Vince (Ray Winstone), accompanies them.

Finally, Jack's wife Amy (Helen Mirren), who forgoes the trip to visit her daughter, is also a major character, albeit one with a somewhat separate storyline.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Personality Change: Jack receives one for the film. In the original book, he appears much more gruff and significantly less charming than his movie self. Michael Caine's Jack is very fun and charming, unlike his angrier book counterpart.
  • All Girls Want Good Guys: Amy, particularly when she is implied to end up with Nice Guy Ray at the close of the film. The book is a bit more ambiguous about it.
  • Anachronic Order: Through flashbacks, the story jumps around all the way from 1939 to 1989. Flashbacks are seen from the perspectives of all the main characters, excluding Jack. To complicate matters even further, sometimes flashbacks-within-flashbacks occur, by way of one character relaying a memory to another one.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Loads of this. To start with, Jack is seen physically far less in the book than in the film, and when he is, it's usually to illustrate Vince's conflicting feelings about him. In the film he appears in most of the flashbacks, and his views on issues such as Vince's car dealership and June's life are made much clearer.
    • June is also an example of this trope, as her storyline is given more time in the film.
    • Amy is perhaps the most extreme example. In the original book, she has a very small role, for the most part only appearing briefly, if other characters mention her. While she does get a chapter or two to her name, there aren't many of them, and they're all short. In the film, however, her part is greatly expanded. Many of Vince, Vic, and Lenny's reminiscences are split between Ray and Amy, allowing the audience to learn much more about Amy's thoughts and feelings.
  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Most of the plot.
  • Caught in the Rain: Amy and Ray seek shelter in the camper because of a sudden downpour. This is how they begin a love affair.
  • Cry into Chest: Amy sobs into Vince's chest in a flashback. It's in a completely unexpected spot, making it one of the most emotional parts in the film. She also does a sort of Cry Into Shoulder thing with Ray later on.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Jack, freeing up Amy to be with Ray.
  • Flashback Within a Flashback: Practically the entire film. Ray, in particular, frequently remembers a conversation with Amy on a bench. Both characters have many flashbacks during this conversation, which is itself a flashback.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Averted with Amy and Ray. The film avoids making any part of Amy's situation feel black and white, at any point. Despite the rift that Jack's neglect of June causes between him and Amy, he's never made out to be a completely unsympathetic character. It's also made clear throughout the film that Amy still cares about him very much.
  • Happy Flashback: Most of the flashbacks in the film are somewhere between completely happy or completely sad, but there are a couple that are strictly happy. Amy gets two with Jack: One in which she tells Ray how she met Jack (this one even has brighter colours than the rest of the film), the second where she remembers the two of them dancing together in the kitchen.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine:
    • Michael Caine and Bob Hoskins play best friends Ray and Jack. The two of them starred in six movies together, and were apparently quite close in real life too.
    • This trope also applies for Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren, who had been previously worked together in The Long Good Friday and a 1980 production of The Duchess of Malfi.
  • Maybe Ever After: It's not made explicitly clear what will happen post-movie, but Ray and Amy's plan to travel to Australia could be interpreted as this trope.
  • Monochrome Past: Averted. In the Director's commentary, Fred Schepisi says that he wanted to avoid colouring the flashbacks differently from the present, for the sake of realism.
  • Nice Guy: Ray, who goes out of his way to help pretty much everyone.
  • Plot Detour: Vince takes both a Plot Detour and an actual detour when he decides to drive to the spot where his parents met, instead of just going to Margate Pier as planned.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Jack's last wish is what establishes the plot. Lampshaded by Ray, Lenny, Vic and Vince at one point.
  • Posthumous Character: Jack. His relationships with the film's five lead characters are explored in depth, across five decades, using flashbacks.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: In the book, various memories are related to the reader by Ray, Lenny, Vince and Vic, while the four are in the car. In the film however, these memories are transformed into flashbacks. These flashbacks are typically introduced by way of Amy and Ray telling each other stories and reminiscing. As a result, Vince, Lenny and Vic have much smaller parts in the film, while Amy's role is greatly expanded.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • When you know that Ray and Amy had an affair, all of the ease and comfort they exhibit around each other becomes much more apparent.
    • In addition, there are lots of fun little hints about Ray being in love with Amy for years throughout the film. For example, in the scene where Jack asks Ray to bet on a horse so that Amy is cleared of Jack's debt, you can see Ray lovingly run his thumb over the picture of Amy that Jack keeps in his wallet.
  • Road Trip Plot: A serious variant of this. Unlike most Road Trip Plots, the characters aren't there to have fun. They're there to carry out the last wishes of a dead loved one.
  • Starts with Their Funeral: Well, the funeral occurred a few days prior, but the film does start shortly after the death of a major character.
  • Timeshifted Actor: The six primary characters each have two actors, one younger and one older, to allow for 50 years worth of flashbacks. The actor who plays young Lenny is Nolan Hemmings, the son of David Hemmings (older Lenny). See Ability over Appearance in the Trivia section for more.