The Last Bus
It’s peculiar to watch a film that’s relentlessly predictable while still being warmly satisfying, but this is very much the case with The Last Bus. The movie doesn’t have a cynical bone in its familiar body, making it difficult to fault the unashamedly sentimental streak that propels the story from start to finish.
Tom (Timothy Spall) is a British pensioner living in John o’ Groats with his wife, Mary (Phyllis Logan). The couple have retreated to the north of Scotland after living in Land’s End, where a tragedy struck the young family – which is clarified during the production’s many, many flashbacks. After Mary passes away, Tom realises that he has some emotional baggage that needs to be unpacked. He decides to travel to Land’s End, using his pensioner’s bus pass to make his way across the entirety of the United Kingdom using only local bus services, becoming a minor social media celebrity along the way.
Spall isn’t even halfway through his sixties, and The Last Bus has him playing a character some 25 years older. There are no extravagant attempts to age his appearance, with the film instead relying on Spall’s performance to give the character credibility. He does so rather masterfully, with subtlety and control that doesn’t depend on an array of mannerisms and affectations. It seems that Tom can’t go five minutes without staring wistfully off into the distance so yet another flashback can unfold, generally underscored with the gentle strumming of a guitar.
Tom is almost defiantly principled as he undertakes his journey, righting wrongs, having a succession of fleeting encounters with colourful locals, and occasionally relying upon the seemingly endless kindness of strangers. At times, these encounters come across as a well-intended idealistic fantasy, but no complaints – the strikingly simplistic construction of director Gillies Mackinnon’s work means that while Tom’s journey warms the heart, the film isn’t able to sufficiently plumb emotional depths in a way that allows it to resonate. Still, The Last Bus is like rugging up under a warm, comfortable blanket.
The Last Bus is released nationwide on 27th August 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Last Bus here: