Michael Caine, Helen Mirren
Directed by Fred Schepisi
Last Orders, directed by Fred Schepisi, who also adapted the novel by Graham Swift, is a funny and touching film that is gorgeously acted by a British cast to rival Gosford Park's. Three longtime friends — Vic (Tom Courtenay), Ray (Bob Hoskins) and Lenny (David Hemmings) — gather in a London pub. Their best mate, Jack (Michael Caine), has died, and they are following his last orders to drive to Margate and scatter his ashes in the sea. Jack's son Vince (the excellent Ray Winstone), chauffeurs the men in his Mercedes. Jack's wife, Amy (Helen Mirren), prefers to spend the day visiting their retarded daughter, June (Laura Morelli), institutionalized since birth. Told in flashbacks that stretch across six decades, the film is a memory piece that takes on a special poignancy if you've seen these Brit legends in their prime: Rent videos of Caine in Alfie, Hemmings in Blowup, Courtenay in Billy Liar, Hoskins and Mirren in The Long Good Friday. Even the actors selected to play these characters in their youth match up well — JJ Feild as young Jack and Kelly Reilly as young Amy exude a palpable sensuality. With all the back and forth, Schepisi succeeds admirably in holding an emotional through-line. The film is a bawdy delight that also stays alert to the petty lies and jealousies that can rupture a friendship. The acting is of the highest order, but the magnificent Mirren — Oscar bait for Gosford Park — is the film's glory and its grieving heart.