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Last Bus, The


Stars: Timothy Spall, Phyllis Logan, Ben Ewing, Natalie Mitson

Director: Gillies Mackinnon

It's a gem of an idea. Cast the hangdog Timothy Spall as a doddery 90something (superb old-age makeup by Christine Cant) undertaking a journey from John o' Groats to Land's End, armed only with a small suitcase and a bus pass. It can't fail and it doesn't, even if at times it does come perilously close to mawkishness.

Newly widowed, the old man sets out, imparting a little wisdom and a few missteps along the way: he goes to sleep on a bus and misses his connection; falling over, he's rescued, cut and bruised, by a mixed-marriage family; the particular room he ordered at a B & B is, to his distress, double-booked; and he comes to the defence of a woman in a hijab being bullied and insulted (although the actor playing the lout is miscast).

His magic pass, however, is only viable for Scotland and 'other selected routes', which sees him slung off the bus in the middle of nowhere by an unfeeling driver. As he takes his map out in the swirling wind, we just know it's going to blow away and it does.

Little by little, though, his journey comes to the attention of smartphones and word of mouth, until he becomes something of a minor celebrity.

Te film is really all Spall and he doesn't let it down, being entirely convincing as the old-timer bucking the odds, carrying us along with him as he puffs and staggers towards his destination. Unsurprisingly, we hold our communal breath as he attempts to walk down wet stone steps at the end of the film. There's a little twist later on in this poignant and picaresque road movie that may take some by surprise.

David Quinlan

UK 2020. UK Distributor: Parkland Entertainment. Colour (unspecified).
86 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 21 Aug 2021