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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Last Call is a low-budget independent drama about a man named Scott (David Wilkins) with suicidal ideation who tries to dial a crisis hotline but makes a mistake and ends up talking to a single mom (Sarah Booth) who's working the night shift as a janitor. The movie has gotten a lot of attention both because of its serious topic and because it's one continuous 77-minute shot that's depicted in real time using a split screen. Expect to hear strong language (especially "f--k" and "s--t"), as well as a brief discussion of a fatal car accident involving a child and another conversation about adulterous thoughts, sex, and attraction. Scott has an alcohol dependency and is drunk for most of the movie; pills also play a role in the story. Families who watch together will have plenty to discuss, especially related to the topics of mental health, suicidal ideation, and how to ask for help.
What's the story?
As writer-director Gavin Michael Booth's LAST CALL begins, it's immediately clear that the movie is a split screen between a man named Scott (David Wilkins), who's drinking heavily, and a woman named Beth (Sarah Booth), who's worried about her son as she drives to her night job. Their conversation proceeds to unfold in real time as Scott calls what he believes to be a crisis hotline but instead is a local university where Beth moonlights as a janitor. Scott is in crisis: He has received a letter from his daughter informing him that he's not welcome at her graduation and that she's changing her last name to fully separate from him. He feels responsible for his divorce and the death of his son. Beth is in over her head, but she's also kind and generous enough to really listen to Scott and his story. As their conversation continues, Beth realizes that Scott is actively suicidal and tries to get help, but she doesn't even know his full name or address.
Is it any good?
This immersive, innovative drama focuses intently on the hopelessness and loneliness of suicidal ideation and its relationship to substance abuse. Because Wilkins and Booth (who's married to the writer-director) aren't instantly recognizable actors and seem totally committed to their roles, there's a realism in Last Call that couldn't have been achieved if it had starred big-name actors. It's suspenseful, building the tension between the main characters as Scott makes more and more revelations that alarm Beth. Composer Adrian Ellis does a stand-out job with the score, establishing the mood and filling the drama like a third character.
There's considerably more movement and action in Beth's shots -- since she's at work -- than in Scott's, since he's mostly home drinking. Every now and then there's brief empty space as Scott, in particular, moves off-screen, but since viewers' eyes have the other shot on which to focus, it's not too off-putting. The parts of the film that have the most impact (aside from its dramatic ending) are Beth and Scott's conversations about their parenting struggles. Even though Beth isn't in the same kind of pain as Scott, she's also in a parenting crisis, because her son hadn't come home when he was expected to before she left for work. The two characters' unusual bond wouldn't work without their parenting stories, and that makes the third-act revelations all the more painful. This isn't an easy film to watch, nor does it offer a simple solution to the problem of suicidal ideation. And although Booth isn't Alfred Hitchcock, Sam Mendes, Mike Figgis, or Alejandro Iñárritu, kudos to his ambition and passion in making a one-shot film that's one long phone conversation.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about suicide and the way it's addressed in Last Call. Why is it important to talk about mental health? What should viewers do if they're feeling alone and depressed? How can you help a friend or family member in crisis?
Discuss the alcohol use/abuse in the movie. What role does substance play in Scott's suicidal thoughts?
What do you think of the movie's format? How does the single-take, split-screen format work to convey the characters' feelings and the story? Would you have preferred a more traditional movie with more shots and a single perspective?
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