Opening 11 Aug 2022
“Take me away from this place,” Mary (Natalie Mitson) implores, and so Tom (Ben Ewing) does to John o' Groats, Scotland. The young couple move into a rambling house with a garden Mary saves from ruin. Now an older faded version, Tom (Timothy Spall) often watches his beloved gardener (Phyllis Logan) before taking her tea. Until the view from the kitchen window is empty; Tom starts mapping out his route south with studied determination. He packs light, doublechecking his pensioner’s free local bus pass is onboard. When passing school children ask Mr. Harper about the suitcase he replies, “going someplace far, far away.” Hurrying along, the young couple across the road go unnoticed.
The first bus driver (Ciaron Kelly) knows Tom, so simply watches him lend a hand to the motorist (Colin McCredie); a twenty-something guy (Finn Weatherstone) films and posts it to social media setting off the “bus hero” myth. Along the 838-mile route (1349 kilometers) Tom helps some folks, sometimes unknowingly (Ronan Doyle, Maryam Hamidi, Brian Pettifer, et al. And sometimes he is helped (Patricia Panther, Stephen Duffy, Saskia Ashdown, Celyn Jones, Natalie Clark, Leonard Cook, Anthony Bowers). Along the ways Tom’s reminiscing wanders down roads long since traveled; at some point along Tom’s urgency becomes frightening clear. Finally reaching Land’s End Tom finds fans waiting for him; shaking off his amazement, Tom concentrates on the task at hand knowing time is of the essence.
Apparently, Joe Ainsworth’s screenplay idea came from overhearing relatives discussing the free bus pass. Director Gillies MacKinnon moves carefully, fluidly between past and present, and among the film’s many human variances. Timothy Spall’s performance—aged twenty-plus years—is wondrous; the shuffling, the compact gestures and slightly garbled speech pattern – amazingly, he keeps ageing during the film. Anne Sopel brilliantly edits George Geddes cinematography, layering images and surprising audiences with hints of past/present. Nick Lloyd Webber scores the film; the soundtrack includes two of Glasgow street busker Caitlin Agnew’s songs. The Last Bus is an evocative, heart-rendering journey; traveling at the nonagenarian’s relaxing pace, laugh out loud and enjoy the scenery and people-watching on the way into destiny. (Marinell Haegelin)