Having high expectations before going into a theater is a horrible idea. Television offers you the chance to turn the channel you can just turn off a bad video game(having to eat a $60 price tag is never easy, however). Watching a movie is different. It may be impossible to fully appreciate until it is over; sometimes, each individual moment no matter how seemingly inconsequential end up being important. Many times even when a film does not meet a person’s lofty expectations, they can be incredibly satisfying.
But what happens when the movie sets the expectations? The Last to See Them is a 2019 German movie that will end up disappointing many. From its eye catching title to text during the opening that clearly states the movie is about a family’s last day before being murdered, the film will generate interest. While it does some different things, it is more frustrating than intriguing.
Initially, The Last to See Them does a great job of building tension. While the audience knows how the day will end, the Durati family have no idea what is about to happen. Watching the family do mundane tasks adds to the emotion of what is going to happen. As the family prepares a meal together there is a sadness since each interaction may be the last thing they do together.
This is especially true when there are arguments. There is nothing especially wild. It is the typical brother needling his sister or parents not caring for the boyfriend types of disagreements. These moments are more about not wanting the last thing said to be out of anger. The audience is almost begging the family to make up with each other.
It soon becomes apparent this will be all there is to see, however. The Last to See Them is not a movie leading up to one horrific moment. The audience is just watching another typical day in the life of a family. The story is more of a family drama than an actual thriller. Once this becomes clear, the movie loses all suspense.
Adding to the confusion are some of the decisions made by director Sara Summa. Make no mistake about it; the film is beautiful. Set on an isolated farm in the Italian countryside, The Last to See Them does a great job of looking scenic without being cliche. The beauty is in how nothing is overpowering and making everything stand out.
It is when Summa decides to take creative liberties with the linear story that the movie becomes frustrating. For example, early in the film, the same sequence is shown various times through the perspective of different members of the family. It sounds like a good idea. The audience gets an idea of how everyone felt on their last day. However, this is immediately dropped and seems to serve no purpose to the movie.
The Last to See Them is simultaneously interesting and tedious. The movie forgoes the traditional route of building suspense. Most films that clue audiences on the ending still add a layer of tension. Here, the feeling is more curiosity. The who and why are unimportant leaving a generic family drama that ultimately just ends.