The Last Photograph (4 stars)

The Last Photograph

Danny Huston directs and stars in a tough but rewarding take on the Lockerbie disaster

Son of John, half-brother to Anjelica, Danny Huston is familiar from villainous supporting turns in fanciful blockbusters like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Wonder Woman. If a scene involving a robotic exoskeleton or an inter-dimensional vortex lacks credibility, Huston adds gravitas to superhero shenanigans. But, given a lead role, as in Bernard Rose's brilliant Ivansxtc, he has a powerful emotional heft, and The Last Photograph sees Huston the director giving Huston the actor a substantial part to play.

The publicity material for The Last Photograph makes it clear that the narrative deals with the Pan Am Flight 103 which exploded over Lockerbie in 1988, but Huston's film – adapted by Simon Astaire from his own novel – takes a while to make the context explicit. Tom Hammond (Huston) is introduced in 2003 as a short-tempered bookshop owner in Chelsea, the victim of a casual theft when his bag is snatched. Counseled by concerned neighbor Hannah (Sarita Choudhury), Tom reveals that among the items stolen was the last photograph taken with his son Luke, the night before the flight. The fate of the photograph gains a totemic resonance as Hammond's grief is reawakened.

Huston makes skilful use of archive footage and carefully puts Hammond coming to terms with his son's death at the centre of proceedings. Where 2010's Remember Me used the 9/11 attacks as a punchline, The Last Photograph seeks out where the story hurts the most and sticks with it. The narrative is simple and contrivances are few – this film is about bereavement, short and sharp.

It is a mood piece, and has no easy answers to offer. But it's also strong, sensitive, and well-performed; Lockerbie is a tragedy that's been neglected by filmmakers, and Huston has conjured up a tough but rewarding story of real-life pain and hard-won healing.

Screened on Thu 22 and Sat 24 Jun as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2017. Available on demand from Mon 26 Apr 2021.

The Last Photograph

  • 4 stars
  • 2017
  • UK
  • 1h 25min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Danny Huston
  • Cast: Danny Huston, Sarita Choudhury, Stacy Martin

Tom Hammond (Huston) is a short-tempered London bookshop owner whose bag is snatched; it contains the last photograph taken with his son Luke, who died 15 years earlier in the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie. Huston as writer/director skilfully delivers a strong, sensitive and well-performed story of real-life pain…