Of all the films I got a chance to watch as part of 2023’s Chattanooga Film Festival, Nathan Blackwell’s The Last Movie Ever Made was by far the friendliest, and sweetest. That might strike as unexpected, as it did for me, considering it’s premise. One day, the aimless Marshall (Adam Rini) and the rest of the Earth’s population receive a transmission directly to their skulls. It turns out that all reality was indeed a simulation, perpetrated by an unseen group of future-humans, and that simulation is set to end in just one month’s time. They’re instructed to enjoy their remaining time before nonexistence takes hold.
A fairly grim setup, which conceals a quirky comedy about the innate value of creativity and creation. Marshall, like others, begins his limited time with a bender of sex and drugs, but it plays out quickly. Then he happens across a collection of films he and his buddies had thrown together as kids. Simulated or not, it’s clear that this past means something, and perhaps because of this rediscovered meaning, Marshall sets forth to ‘get the band back together,’ and attempt to finish their last unfinished film before time runs out.
What follows is a funny and charming series of Marshall trying to convince his old pals to spend what little time they have remaining making a movie that would ultimately be wiped out of existence along with the rest of them. He is, predictably stymied by some of his aging friends, who prioritize the families they’ve built since. This leaves Marshall in the reverse of his starting position: of all the people who have lived more purpose-driven lives, he is the one, in these final hours, with a purpose. And as time goes on, it does indeed spread to a ragtag collection of friends old and new, as they set forth to share in that purpose. It even leads to both healing and redefining of some of his most impactful relationships; all in service to his one true passion: a silly movie for him and his friends to enjoy.
Not unlike the 2014 indie/horror/comedy film ‘Dave Made A Maze,’ this movie brings a lot of thinking to the table about creativity. What makes art valuable? What makes it worth the effort? Is a sterling final product what drives creative minds, or is it just put form to something that only exists in imagination? What if imagination and relationships are all there is, in the end?
Don’t let that load of galaxy-brain nonsense fool you though; this film isn’t a slouch in the entertainment department. It’s brimming with innately funny and charming characters who effortlessly play off each other. I cannot stress ’charming’ enough. What seem at first like characters that fit in a Kevin Smith film (a bit pathetic, a lot sardonic) the principal cast all come to be rendered third-dimensionally, each with pathos that informs their decision to toil in their final days making something nobody will ever enjoy outside of themselves.
And that’s really the core of the film, in my opinion. It’s sweetness isn’t mawkish sentimentality, or built on a tragic happenstance. It’s a group of boiled frogs finding comfort in each other as they face the fact that they, like us, are already doomed to oblivion. If everything is frivolous, then what’s more valuable than throwing yourself headlong into passion and camaraderie?