The Last Conversation (2010) – By James Dubbeldam

The Last Conversation by Craig Fox is a unique short film about a man using a video call (through web cams) to tell his wife that he has a terminal illness and only has weeks to live. His wife, who is away for work, also has a surprise for him. She however was waiting to tell him in person the next time they were together. But when she finds out the devastating news, she decides to share with her husband that she’s pregnant. Throughout the conversation the husband talks philosophically about life and death, while the wife struggles with her emotions and the urges to be with him. She wants to get on the next plane to fly home- but in his condition would there even be a point?

The film itself is a great idea. “Watching” a web cam conversation that at points draws us in, creating the feeling that we are one of the characters. There’s only ever one person on the screen at a time- just like what we are used to- if you ever use a web cam. But two things are missing. And I want to mention that all my “opinions” are shared for one main reason. To see Craig- or anyone else- try this type of film again. And make it stronger!

The first suggestion would be to add the little screen that shows your own face on it (what your web cam is shooting). I think that it would pull the viewer deeper into the story if both faces could be seen at the same time. It would feel more realistic.  On the other hand, with a topic so sad and emotional, it’s difficult for the viewer to care about the characters and what’s going on as we rarely see the reactions of the other person- what they are doing (and “feeling”) while the other person talks. So editing is definitely tricky here. And key to making it work well.

The one thing that kept popping into my mind to enhance the experience (as I call it) would be a split screen, so that the viewer could watch both characters at once- at least in certain parts of the film. Also, because of the cutting back and forth between screens, there’s no over-talking, interrupting, etc. what we as viewers are used to when watching films about subject matter such as this- or any sort of conversation for that matter. I feel like the actors waiting for each other to finish speaking really took away from what they could have done with it- and how much the viewer could “believe” what was happening.

There were some difficult decisions to make when it came to the “technical” side of things- like framing, lighting and backgrounds. I’m not sure how much thought or planning went into it- how “deliberate” they were- but they felt a little un-natural to me. The framing of the husband and wife was different (which you might almost expect) but became “choppy” when cutting back and forth. I almost hoped that they could be in similar positions and that their heads could be similar sizes, so it flowed better.

The lighting as well was different between the “shots”, as well as the backgrounds. I didn’t struggle as much with those aspects, but think that the next time Craig takes on this type of short he should really figure out how the differences affect people’s outlook (their feelings etc.) on what they are seeing. Make it an experiment of sorts. It could definitely work in his favour!

The acting itself was good. As good as it could be in a sense through the editing and the fact that it was choppy cutting back and forth between the screens. Some reactions seemed delayed and un-natural but I almost forgave them at first watch as this was something new for me. There is real emotion here, and without that there wouldn’t have been much of a film- but as a viewer you really want to see and “feel” the tears- which I didn’t.

When I read that the actors (one of which was the director, Craig) just had a script and acted and were taped alone- I thought that was a cool idea but didn’t work as well as it could. Why not have the actors “acting” together using the web cam? Why not have them react to each other and feed off the energy each had? It could really help them get inside their characters- making it more believable.

I like the idea of the film; I was excited to watch it. I also hope that Craig tries it again, this time maybe putting some thought into some of my suggestions, getting many other opinions, and taking this idea further. I think it could really pay off for him- and I am excited to see if he does it again!