After a recent mental breakdown, a social outcast named Luke has trouble reassessing his life and getting it back on track, in the short film Last Resort.
With only himself to talk to and answerphone messages being his only contact with other people; Luke makes a decision that may or may not culminate in him taking his own life.
Here in the UK, three-quarters of all suicides are committed by men. That means that of all the things that can kill adult males before the age of fifty, such as drink, drugs, violence, fatal accidents, car crashes or even cancer, the most likely thing that will end their lives is themselves and the greatest threat they face is actually their own minds. In fact, eighty-four British men take their own life every single week.
In the US, these numbers are far greater and the rates of suicide increase every year. On average 44,965 people die from suicide annually and when you break down the numbers it brings up some shocking statistics for the male population. Suicide is the seventh leading cause of death for males and the fourteenth leading cause of death for females. Men die from suicide 3.53% more often than women. White males account for seven out of every ten reported suicides, while the rate of suicide is higher in middle-aged white men than any other demographic.
By any standards, it is a major national social issue and writer/director/musician Klifford Barkus attempts to tackle the subject in his own style with the 15-minute short film Last Resort.
After a recent breakdown, Luke, played compellingly by director Barkus, is finding it difficult to reintegrate into his daily life. A loner and social outcast, Luke is indeed a troubled soul who we first meet sitting alone in his grimy flat on the phone contacting The Samaritans. He is obviously in great pain and distress and needs someone to talk to desperately. Unfortunately, as soon as the voice on the other line picks up, Luke remains silent and, out of pure frustration, smashes his phone down. It’s a powerful opening, helping to hammer home the fact men simply do not like talking to other people about their feelings and therein lies the point of Barkus’s film.
Last Resort is intent on telling us that it’s not just good to talk but that it’s a must to talk. Lucas’s day is punctuated by answer phone messages from different doctors, therapists, and counselors. Faceless voices asking how he is? If he is coming to his next session? Or that they missed him at the last session. Meanwhile, Lucas sits alone self-harming and contemplating his end. These people seem to care about him but not enough to actually insist he gets his treatment or to even come over and check on him personally to see if he’s okay.
While there are other characters involved in Last Resort, they mainly take the shape of extras in what is basically a solo performance from Barkus himself. He is in every frame and scene of the film and when he isn’t talking to himself in character we have his voice narrating his thoughts out loud for the audience to hear throughout the fifteen-minute run time. He holds everything together very well and his performance is good but the film itself is a bit of a mishmash of confusing editing styles and camera angles.
Last Resort did open my eyes to the plight of these vulnerable men but it didn’t work for me as a short film as it seemed to be more like a piece of solo performance art. With Barkus’s voice over coming across as not so much an actor but more of a beat poet delving into his stream of consciousness on stage and sharing his feelings and politics and whatever else spilled out with a group of like-minded artisans sat in an auditorium. This feeling was enhanced when towards the end Barkus shares with us an original song he’d written especially for the film called ‘Misery’ but both the melancholy title and music fitted the short and its subject matter like a glove.
I found Last Resort to be an interesting little film with an original style and take on life and although it doesn’t all work it still deserves credit for shedding light onto a growing epidemic and Klifford Barkus’ brave performance.