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Last Chance Harvey


Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Eileen Atkins, James Brolin, Kathy Baker, Liane Balaban, Bronagh Gallagher, Richard Schiff

Director: Joel Hopkins

Although at times it verges on the schmaltzy, the performances of Thompson and Hoffman (and Atkins as Emma's mother) make it difficult to dislike this autumn-winter romance set in London. All three stars create real characters against the odds, in the story of 60something Harvey Shine (Hoffman), long divorced and still struggling to make a living as a jingle writer, coming to England for the wedding of his daughter (Balaban).

After suffering the humiliation of his daughter asking her stepfather (Brolin) to give her away. Harvey goes to a bar and runs into Kate (Thompson), whom he had met fleetingly in her capacity as an airport survey rep. In between her fending off calls from her paranoid mother (Atkins, in a wonderfully well-drawn portrayal), who believes her Polish neighbour is a mass murderer, and Harvey being told he's been sacked, they strike up a hesitant acquaintance, which ends with Kate telling Harvey he should go back to the wedding reception and he insisting that she accompany him.

There's a snag, of course, when Harvey's irrythmia stops him turning up for a morning-after tryst, but this is too feelgood a film to keep us from a happy ending (though one doubts Harvey's wisdom in quitting his job when offered it back). The warmth generated by the stars and the restraint of the script keep this one afloat even when a sea of sentiment threatens to sink it.

David Quinlan

UK/USA 2008. UK Distributor: Momentum. Technicolor.
93 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 31 May 2009