Evan Merck (Wes Bentley) is a gifted writer who makes his living in a very morose way: by writing suicide notes for people who are planning on killing themselves. He meets with them a few times, interviews them, writes a couple of drafts of the notes, and in the end keeps a file with the finished note as well as the newspaper death notice of his client.
Evan meets a woman named Charlotte (Winona Ryder) at a funeral. She turns out to be the sister of one of his recent clients. Not wanting to upset her, he lies about how he knew her brother. She thinks that Evan is an old friend of her brother’s from college.
While his relationship with Charlotte grows, Evan begins working with Abel (Ray Romano), a new client who has a very sarcastic and defiant attitude. Evan struggles to balance his work, his new relationship and the lies he has begun to bury himself under.
The Last Word was written and directed by Geoffrey Haley. Though he has a couple of directorial and writing credits, most of Haley’s work has been directly behind the camera: he’s served as a camera operator on over 70 films, including American Beauty, The Fighter, Joyride, Easy A and American Hustle. He even served as the director of photography on an episode of Pretty Little Liars!
If this film is any indication of his talent, I hope Haley goes far in writing and directing in the future. He offers up a unique story here, darkly comic but not in such a way that realism is diminished, and his direction pulls strong performances from the cast. Things get a little bit messy by the film’s end, but overall I found the story to be very engrossing.
Winona Ryder and Wes Bentley are great leads. I wasn’t sure how they’d match up, but was intrigued by the pairing when I saw the poster for this film while browsing on Netflix. They make a surprisingly good pair. Bentley, though known for playing a super-creep character in American Beauty, keeps his character from falling into the super-creep category here despite the disturbing nature of his work.
The characters are varied and fascinating, which is again a tribute to Haley’s talent as a writer. Evan and Charlotte are written to complement each other. Evan is quiet and subdued while Charlotte is talkative and a bit erratic. Even if the performances were crap, these two personalities would be interesting to watch.
I may be the only person in the world who enjoyed this film — I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews for it around the web. I would recommend giving it a shot if you’re into dark dramedies. The score: 4/5