Last Chance Harvey is a sweet, romance drama in the throes of a mid-life crisis, directed by Joel Hopkins and starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. Hoffman and Thompson so enjoyed working together on Stranger Than Fiction that Last Chance Harvey seemed inevitable. It’s a Before Sunrise for 50-somethings, as an American commercial “jingle” composer travels to London for his daughter’s wedding to make amends with her, only to find her stepfather has taken precedence in her life. What starts like a depressing coming-of-age father-daughter drama soon takes a turn with Thompson, as the unlikely pair kindles a soulful friendship on the busy streets of London.
Last Chance Harvey has terrific lead stars in Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, who create real, everyday chemistry between the quirky composer and homely survey consultant. Harvey’s a divorcee, who’s about to lose his uninspiring day job and witness his daughter walk down the aisle with her stepfather and then marry a complete stranger. He’s alienated from the wedding party, shunned by his ex-wife, disowned by his own daughter and slowly heading on a downward spiral. What’s Harvey got to lose? Well, nothing… and that’s exactly why he plucks up the nerve to pick himself up, apologise and then ask an attractive woman to lunch.
The direction is almost invisible as writer-director Joel Hopkins weaves an off-beat romantic comedy around an unlikely pair of lonely hearts. The sights and sounds of on-location shooting in London make armchair travel a secondary agenda with the Thames skyline complementing the front-of-camera romance and drama. The city, the people, the strolls, the light banter makes Last Chance Harvey a nice film… and it all mimics the atmosphere and setting of Before Sunrise and After Sunset… just 28 years later.
London’s heavy coat mood is reflected in the budding relationship as the two are united by their only commonalities, loneliness and fairly miserable circumstances. Opposites must attract, because there’s very little in common between the two as they compare notes and commiserate with each others dire mid-life situations. As an audience you desperately want things to work out between the love-in-later-life lovebirds. Thompson appears to have put on weight for the role and is taller than Hoffman, making the odd couple even more eccentric.
The film is on a strict Hollywood diet apart from the big name stars, and carries a cold realism, which is buoyed by the heartwarming romance. There are some formulaic elements here and there, which could just pass as film language to create more drama, but it’s ultimately an affable, sweet and charming little character-driven romance with a twinge of light comedy that will make that Sunday afternoon all worth it.
The bottom line: Heartwarming.