The Last Bus
By Stefan Pape,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Moving British drama about grief has some language and sex.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Grief is explored both in terms of the passing of loved ones as well as our own mortality. Life is short so it's important to make the most of it. How even the smallest gestures can sometimes mean the most to us.
Positive Role Models
Tom displays great resilience and determination. He becomes obsessed with the idea of completing his journey, in the manner he wishes to, no matter what obstacles he faces. He also has a comforting outlook on his own mortality, making sense of his terminal illness and pending death. He stands up to racists and thieves too.
The main character is an elderly White male who is living with a terminal illness. The film is solely centered around this character but there is some diversity and women characters in supporting roles. There is some Islamophobia and xenophobia depicted but this is clearly shown to be wrong with characters standing up to those showing these bigoted attitudes.
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Violence & Scariness
A character cuts their finger, and later their head, both incidents resulting in a bit of bloodshed. War injuries are discussed including seeing others with their "legs blown off." A character is seen collapsed dead in a garden. A thief who steals a briefcase is then threatened with a baseball bat. Later a character who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer is seen throwing up blood. A passenger on a bus receives unwanted attention from someone who then starts using Islamophobic language.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple are seen engaging in intercourse. They are both clothed and it is not graphic. Two characters also allude to having sex and making noises that could awake the neighbors.
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Words including "s--t," "piss," and "sod" are used. An elderly character is called "grandad," "pops," and "old git," all intended to be insults. Some Islamophobic behavior. Character refers to Scotland as "Jockland" and says that by crossing the border into England they are "entering civilization."
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Products & Purchases
The main character has little regard for material goods, instead embracing a more simple way of living. This is encapsulated in how they intend to travel across the U.K. by bus, and bus alone, which leads to them going viral on social media.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A bachelorette party is seen drinking on the street. In the same scene a person who is seemingly experiencing homeless offers alcohol to another character. Characters are seen drinking beer in the back of a van and later at a house party. A character is seen pouring a vodka for another.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Last Bus is a slow, moving British drama that looks upon the theme of grief and facing up to one's own mortality. Central character Tom (Timothy Spall) has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and is determined to travel by bus from one end of the U.K. to the other in order to scatter the ashes of his deceased wife, Mary (Phyllis Logan). Along this journey he begins to learn about himself and make sense of his terminal diagnosis. During his trip, Tom displays many honorable traits. But he also encounters many who represent the less favorable side of humanity. A man behaves racist toward a Muslim lady on the bus and a thief steals Tom's briefcase. Tom stands up to some of these bullies and is supported by other passengers -- although one threatens the young, female thief with a baseball bat. A bus conductor also shows xenophobic behavior when he alludes to England being a more civilized place than Scotland. There is a mild sex scene, with no nudity, and a couple discuss their sex life. The language is generally mild with one use of "piss" and some use of "s--t." People also refer to Tom as an "old git" and "grandad," intended as insults. Some drinking is depicted with characters drinking on the street, and in the back of a van, and also at a house party, where straight vodka is served to guests.
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The Last Bus
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What's the Story?
THE LAST BUS tells the story of Tom (Timothy Spall), an elderly man who is terminally ill. His wife, Mary (Phyllis Logan), recently passed away, and so he decides, even in his poor health, to travel from his home at one end of the U.K. all the way back to his birthplace -- which happens to be at the other end of the country -- to scatter Mary's ashes. And what's more, he intends to complete this trip solely by bus.
Is It Any Good?
This British drama has such a tender, heart-warming premise, that is incredibly difficult not to be moved by it. In some ways, and despite being a live-action movie as opposed to an animated tale, The Last Bus draws comparisons to Pixar's Up. Be warned, Spall's portrayal of Tom, an elderly man traveling across the country to take his wife's ashes back to her home town, is going to make you cry.
But director Gillies MacKinnon and writer Joe Ainsworth perhaps just need to remember that sometimes, less is more. Some of the drama feels contrived, when there's more than enough already deriving from the profound, overriding narrative. Tom becoming a social media celebrity feels unnecessary and there's far too many horrible people that he encounters on his journey. While these objectionable characters are needed to highlight Tom's righteousness, there are more subtle ways to achieve this. There's also a needless addition of flashbacks, which brings little to the story. But Spall is brilliant, as always, in the lead role. He's so committed to his characters and brings so much conviction in his performances. And this role is no exception, with his portrayal elevating the material.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how The Last Bus explores themes around grief. How did his wife's death impact Tom? Have you experienced the loss of a family member? How did you feel? Movies to help kids deal with grief.
What character strengths did Tom show? Why are these such important traits to have? Can you think of any occasions when you've shown these traits?
Tom traveled a great distance to get to a place of important to him. Discuss any particular places that mean a lot to you and the reasons why.
Talk about some of the language used, especially the xenophobic and Islamophobic slurs. What did it add to the story?
How did the movie portray sex? Was it affectionate? Respectful? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
- In theaters: February 18, 2022
- On DVD or streaming: February 18, 2022
- Cast: Timothy Spall, Phyllis Logan, Celyn Jones
- Director: Gillies MacKinnon
- Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Films
- Genre: Drama
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: November 23, 2022
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