The Last Bus (2021)

The  British “Road Trip” movie is a fairly neglected genre, for obvious  reasons. Unless you are on a Vespa to Brighton or Tom Hardy on the M6,  it’s unlikely that a trip across the UK is going to be interesting (or  long) enough. Joe Ainsworth’s tale of an elderly man travelling the  longest route possible is sentimental but heartfelt viewing.

Timothy Spall plays Tom, a recent widower living in  John o' Groats who is planning one hell of a bus trip - and without a  Megabus or National Express in sight. His plan is to travel to Land’s  End in Cornwall using local buses, on an expedition that will see him  mix it up with all walks of life. Well, those that take the bus.

Relying on the kindness of strangers is a well-worn  trope, and director Gillies MacKinnon uses it like a freedom pass with  The Last Bus. Everyone Tom bumps into seems to have the potential to be a  friend for life or an instant foe, and his ailing health or pitiful  funds is almost instantly solved by a stranger’s charity. Regular  commuters will be asked to suspend their disbelief at the social  interaction Tom is able to garner from the bus stops he stands at. Not a  silent one among them.

Fortunately, Spall’s engrossing portrayal clocks up  the emotional miles as we witness through flashbacks the life he had  with his wife (Phylis Logan). His astonishing range is given a wide  berth, MacKinnon knowing this is his ace in the hole, and the actor  manages to depict the grit and frailty of the central character with  deft skill. The cast as a whole are silhouette passengers on the screen  for brief interactions and narrative convenience.

It’s unglamorous and misty-eyed, with enough coats of  slapped on poignancy to paint, well a bus. A sombre score gets  punctuated with vibrant acoustic tunes to provide the essential  travelling montages, direct from the road trip handbook. But this is a  lovingly crafted entry into the UK road trip movie genre that, at the  very least, should be an inspiration to filmmakers that a trip down the  M4 corridor could be the next On The Road. Or at least Dumb and Dumber  To.

The programme starts 30 minutes after doors open and the main feature 60 minutes after doors open.
Doors open:
7pm on Saturday 12th February 2022
Gillies MacKinnon
86 mins
Phyllis Logan, Timothy Spall, Grace Calder