always floats on the surface tonally
LAST NIGHT IN ROZZIE (2021)
For those who aren’t privy to the filmmaking scene, a lot of short films that are created are usually made with the intention of turning that concept or story into a feature film sometime after the short film’s release. By entering these shorts into film festivals, it allows the filmmakers to exhibit their work to a larger audience (and usually an audience who are on the lookout for their next feature film idea). Not all filmmakers get the chance to take their passion project and turn into a movie, however writer Ryan McDonough and director Sean Gannet have done just this by adapting their award-winning 2017 short into a feature of the same name, Last Night In Rozzie, starring Neil Brown Jr (Straight Outta Compton), Jeremy Sisto (Clueless) and Nicky Whelan (Hall Pass).
According to IMDb, Gannet’s short film cost approximately $40,000 to make. Not knowing at the time of writing what the budget was for the feature, it is apparent on screen that the team did what they could on a limited feature budget. Many scenes are restricted to either a hospital room or singular outdoor locations, and Gannet has definitely made the best of this situation. However, the limitations do give a sense of staticness to the drama. Some scenes look lifeless when the camera shots just constantly cut between the same mid-shots of two people talking to each other. Again, there isn’t much to criticise based on the fact that this is a lower budget-indie feature, but perhaps under the guidance of established producers, there could have been slightly more creative ways to visually tell the story.
When the camera does have the ability to move around, some poorly edited together shots show that with a bit more precision and experience, the potential for Gannet to grow as a filmmaker is definitely there.
Last Night In Rozzie follows Ronnie Russo (Neil Brown Jr.), a lawyer who returns to his childhood town of Boston to visit a dying friend, Joey (Jeremy Sisto). During his final days, Joey wants to reconnect with his estranged son, and asks Ronnie to help with this, leading to the reconnection of Ronnie and his old highschool sweetheart (and now Joey’s ex-wife), Pattie (Nicky Whelan). However, as Ronnie begins to recount memories of his past, a traumatic event from his childhood forces himself and Joey to confront their past demons.
Last Night In Rozzie deals with some incredibly complex themes such as trauma, abuse and burying the pain of it all within. The screenplay is very sympathetic to these issues, making the film have this aura of genuine care for these themes. However, the plots issue is not within these moments, it’s within the expanded relationship scenes that somewhat act as time-filler around them.
Expanding the short film concept into a 80-minute movie is not an easy task, and while the elongated version of the story definitely allows for the characters to have more backstory to dive into and gives more time to go back and forth between modern day and the past, there are moments in the film that drag the pace down. The story begins to unravel quite late into the film, making earlier dialogue scenes and certain character relationships feel a touch repetitive or redundant. As we begin to find out more about the trauma that Ronnie has endured throughout his childhood, that’s when the movie becomes more intriguing and captivating. However, without even seeing the short film, it feels like the part of the movie that was solely adapted from it’s 15 minute predecessor. If that is true, then I can understand the praise the short film received, as that last 15-20 minutes of the feature film is genuinely dramatic and intense.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The main three characters in the film unfortunately do feel like characters from a short film. Even though the story has made an attempt to dive deeper into their pasts, the screenplay just keeps them on the surface level, not opening up their vulnerabilities until it’s past the point of truly being engaged with them as characters.
Each actor is doing the best they can with the material, but no one gives an outstanding, show-stealing performance, rather coming off a bit flat in moments that felt like they should’ve had more emotional gravitas for. The talent is there with actors who have proven themselves in dramatic roles before, but the drama comes across as more ‘soap-opera’ than dramatic human story about trauma.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Working within the limited budget doesn’t allow for any standout moments visually throughout Last Night In Rozzie, however each character has a distinct, defining look that is well crafted, all budgetary constraints considered. The camerawork doesn’t do a lot to display locations and set design, focusing more so on characters and dialogue, but it’s never distracting or detrimental to the overall visual aesthetic.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
A mixture of soundtrack and score doesn’t do anything overly captivating throughout the film, but at the same time, nothing felt out of place or distracting. Composer Jongnic Bontemps has created a stock-like score that adds slightly more to the emotionality than the script itself does in certain scenes.
Even though it deals with emotionally heavy themes like childhood trauma and abuse with care and empathy, Last Night In Rozzie always floats on the surface tonally rather than trying to dive deeper into the characters and situations. It is obvious that this film is an important story to the filmmakers, and hopefully over time and with more resources, we will see better dramatic stories from them.