A clumsy and laboured road movie, The Last Bus follows Timothy Spall’s widower Tom from John O’Groats to Land’s End, a journey he had made before many years ago. Determined to do the whole trip by bus with a case that must never leave his side, former mechanic Spall encounters a series of ‘characters’ along the way, many of them excruciatingly underwritten and cliché-ridden. Supposedly offering a snapshot of Scotland and England, we meet the likes of privileged landowners, would-be soldiers, sketchily drawn racists, stag and hen dos, little Hitlers and partying Ukrainians – some offering help and solace, others obstacles. Tom even survives a bus accident with a bridge.
Throughout the journey, he views his younger self along with his wife Mary: passing them on the street, seeing them at bus stops and remembering their life together and a tragedy endured. Phyllis Logan cameos as Spall’s wife in her later years, saddled with a fairly thankless part, and Spall rather overdoes the old-age acting, jutting out his lower lip as it transpires he’s not very well either, cancer-ridden and on a deadline. What he doesn’t know is that he has become something of an internet sensation without his knowledge, an unintentional celebrity.
The whimsy feels forced and the script is uncomfortably simplistic and often rather lame, an Amazing Grace singsong and a dance with an aspiring drama student particularly excruciating. The landscapes are well filmed via second unit, the buses cutting a swathe through the country, but the bus journey metaphor is obvious and the realisation by director Mackinnon weak. What should be moving is often embarrassing and self-indulgent, the final ‘feel-good’ factor feels forced, and Spall’s theatrics unfortunately do not convince. Not worth the fare.
Dir: Gillies Mackinnon (12A, 86 mins)
Released in cinemas on Fri 27 Aug
words KEIRON SELF
We’re more than just a magazine.
Discover what media and content services we provide.