Director Phil Sansom, with producer Rupert Sansom, crafted a gritty, stylish dark comedy short that takes the codes and style of the gangster film and transports them to the gorgeous Scottish countryside, exploring the knotty loyalties and tensions that underlie a contentious fraternal relationship.
In “Last Respects,” brothers Richard and Danny Drummond embark on road trip into the beautiful Scottish Highlands to carry out the last request of their late father. In order to receive their inheritance, they must sprinkle a prized bottle of single malt onto his final resting place.
But being in close quarters over the course of a day heightens the feud between the brothers. Richard is an out-of-work actor with a drinking problem; Danny is dealing with the fallout of a failed marriage and bankruptcy. Neither are in a great place, and being in one another’s company only sharpens the tensions between them.
But when their car breaks down — and they must make their way into the heart of whiskey country to their father’s grave — long-running conflicts bubble up and the brothers come to blows, leading to an unexpected twist that breaks open their relationship to a new level.
The dramatic circumstances of “Last Respects” are rooted in serious emotional material, but the short itself fizzes and pops with the rollicking energy of a stylized British gangster film, whether it’s in the brisk pace, terse yet witty dialogue or the raucous rock ‘n roll soundtrack.
The film gets started quickly, setting up the story with a wry, funny voiceover of the late father — voiced by “Game of Thrones” actor James Cosmo — who clearly relishes the prospect of his sons battling it out on this final errand. And, as expected, the brothers clearly have it out between themselves as they make their way through the highlands, beautifully captured by cinematographer Neil Gordon.
Actors Charlie Allen and Simon Haycock, who play Richard and Danny, respectively, offer sharp, succinct and precise performances that ably capture the two brothers’ differing temperaments and long-simmering anger with one another. But when their conflict has clear and direct consequences, they also must work together to repair their mistake, leading to a scene of rapprochement that resonates and compels with gruff yet genuine openness.
“Last Respects,” however, doesn’t turn to sentimentality, despite its well-earned emotion. Staying true to its profane, funny gangster stylings, the film proves in the end that the Drummond brothers are still very much their father’s sons. Though they’re at odds and different as can be, they share the same familial legacy. It may be dysfunctional, but the sharing is what makes it powerful. When they make it to the grave of their patriarch and offer a final goodbye to their dad, it is a witty, profane and oddly touching tribute to the family that made them who they are.