Set in India, we follow a young nine-year-old boy named Samay (Bhavin Rabari) who lives with his family. One day, his father decides to take the family to the movies. Samay questions the decision, claiming that his father doesn’t even like movies. It’s been five years since he last visited the cinema as a four-year-old boy. Samay’s father, Bapuji (Dipen Raval), expresses with excitement that the film is different and will be the only film Samay need ever see in his life as it is, in fact, a religious film.
When Samay sits down and watches the film with his family, it’s a new and fresh experience. Samay is not only fascinated and encouraged while viewing the film- filled with a touching message and various dance sequences- but he’s also amazed by the workings of movies and the cinema itself, such as the atmosphere, projection, and lightning. After the film, Samay opens up to his father, claiming he wants to make movies one day. His father instantly shuts down his thoughts and tells him that doing so would be a shameful job. Plus, according to his father, the film world is a filthy business against their virtues. Instead, we see Samay helping his father serve chai teas to passengers on passing trains. When he’s not helping his father, he enjoys telling made-up stories with his friends and sometimes enjoys wandering the train lines, playing, and pretending.
One day, Samay boards the train to go to school and finds a way to sneak out of class, steal small amounts of cash and go to the movies to watch an action film instead. When Samay runs late returning home, his parents are highly concerned and worried, and shortly after, the local police get involved. Thankfully, Samay is found safely and returns home to his angry father, who chases him with a large stick, leaving him with a few bruises on his arm. Even the harsh discipline from his father doesn’t stop Samay from sneaking into the cinema again to watch more films. Soon, Samay meets a man named Fazal (Bhavesh Shrimali) outside of the cinema. Fazal is a projectionist at the cinema. Shortly after the two share a brief conversation, Fazal welcomes Samay to hang around in the projection room while watching movies for free, and a new friendship begins. At the same time, Samay’s passion for cinema continues to grow.
For those unaware, Last Film Show is best described as a drama film. Surprisingly, while the film is best classed as a drama, I also found many uplifting moments throughout. Watching the birth of Samay’s love for all thing’s surrounding cinema is a joyous and wonderful sight, even more so as a film lover. Watching Samay learn to splice film, wind up film reels, load projectors and, most importantly, watch movies is easy to invest in.
Performance-wise, Bhavin Rabari is applaudable and stunning as Samay. The young performer delivers a highly believable and genuine performance, with many heartfelt. These are particularly strong when he’s required to make a hard choice or deal with his father, who is harsh or abusive towards him. The Director and Writer, Pan Nalin, deserves praise for his craft in this film. The dialogue here is fantastic, the line deliveries feel very natural, and the visuals are great. The locations are great, including the cinema, as are the smooth shots. My only major issue with the film is the change in pace in the second act, which becomes highly different and slow. During this act, Samay begins to take matters into his own hands, which is somewhat unexpected but also less exciting than the rest of the film. Still, thankfully, the finale and payoff are good, delivering a memorable experience.
Overall, this is a terrific drama with many uplifting and touching moments. It’s impossible not to be delighted while watching this young boy’s introduction to the magical world of cinema and the birth of his desire to make films. I love the writing for this film, which includes dialogue that feels real and natural. The leading performance from Bhavin Rabari as Samay is also tremendous. Visually, this film can’t be faulted, nor can its Indian locations and smooth filming style. As the credits roll, it’s impossible to deny that Last Film Show is a touching, memorable experience.
Last Film Show (2021) is Available in Australian Cinemas from September 14th.