Danny Huston directs The Last Photograph – an adaptation of Simon Astaire’s book centred around a father’s struggle to cope after his son is killed in the Lockerbie air terror attack of 1988. This project is brimming with ambition and heart as it explores the effects of PTSD on a single father and the control grief has over us.
The Last Photograph sees Tom Hammond’s (Huston) life thrust into a tailspin when the last remaining photograph he has with his son, Luke (Jonah Hauer-King), is stolen from his bookshop. The film delicately adopts a non-chronological narrative approach as it explores Tom’s relationship with his son in 1988, paralleled with the aftermath of the Lockerbie bombing, and later Tom’s struggle to cope in 2003 when his prized photograph is stolen.
Astaire’s (who also writes the screenplay) narrative manages to deliver a stirring emotional impact by carefully building up Tom’s relationship with Luke prior to the tragedy. Naturally reminiscent of most father-son relationships, we immediately warm to these characters – with much credit being due to convincing performances from Huston and Hauer-King. With this relationship gradually being built-up throughout the project, combined with the scattered narrative, we get a sense of the unsettled pain and frenzy that plagues Tom throughout. Huston channels this frantic energy through fast-paced direction that helps the film blur the lines between fact and fiction (a scene that feels loosely inspired by Nic Roeg’s Don’t Look Now shows this masterfully.)
With the emotional heartbeat established, we are sucked into the tragedy like Tom. The initial panic that Tom feels when hearing the first news of the plane crash delivers a devastating blow to the film’s protagonist – and audience. Huston’s manic, near zoned-out energy in these scenes is sublime, showcased as the father drives from London to Lockerbie through the night. The 2003 set scenes in London are as impressive, almost paralleling the events of the tragic night in 1988 as Tom once again experiences the hell of losing his son again, represented by the loss of the photograph.
The Last Photograph is a thrilling exploration of the effects that tragedy has on us. The setting of an almost isolated, sparse London makes a fitting canvas for this tale of extreme trauma and loneliness. Huston’s direction is tightly-paced, but deeply expressive, with quieter moments often allowing him to be his most creative – as highlighted in the touching, dreamlike final scenes.