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(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for a memorable family anecdote. Instead of some specific story, I incorporated a few into a societal critique.)

There’s so much that we used to do
When we would go outside.

The sun would bake us at the beach
And leave us peeling for a week,
And kites would soar far out of reach
Until we practiced our technique.
We’d grumble as we walked the dog
And stumbled through the morning fog.
There’s so much we would take in stride
When we would go outside.

The mountain trails would call our name
And leave us awed and insect-bitten.
At the park, we’d choose our game,
Get stuck in trees we thought we’d fit in,
Find we’re lost beyond belief,
Then find our way with sighed relief.
There’s so much that we dared and tried
When we would go outside.

Interiors are now default,
The “Great Outdoors” a memory,
And from our comfort-ridden vault,
A screen eclipses earth and sea.
Although we know without a doubt,
We’re on the inside looking out.
There’s so much that we are denied
When we won’t go outside.

MPAA rating: Unrated (should be R due to profanity in the subtitles, maybe PG-13 without that, though there’s still some brief violence and nudity)

When you see deserted city streets littered with abandoned cars and roaming animals, what explanation comes to mind first? These days, it’s probably a zombie apocalypse or maybe an alien invasion, right? The Last Days suggests a much simpler kind of apocalypse, though, one where people don’t dare go outside, but not because of some creature lurking out there; they simply die if they leave shelter.

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A Spanish thriller perhaps influenced by the surrealist film The Exterminating Angel, The Last Days (or Los Últimos Días) triggers its apocalypse gradually, with people suddenly contracting severe agoraphobia or fear of open spaces. Walking outside provokes a deadly seizure, so people end up stranded in whatever building they happen to be in at the time. Some viewers may have trouble taking such an epidemic seriously, but it’s revealed gradually through flashbacks and treated with dead seriousness and great realism. In the case of Marc (Quim Gutiérrez), he was at work when it hit and has spent the last three months trapped inside his Barcelona office building, taking turns with his coworkers to dig a tunnel to the subway. When they finally reach this chance to travel to other parts of the city, he sets out in search of his girlfriend Julia (Marta Etura), grudgingly aided by corporate firing specialist Enrique (José Coronado).

The Last Days works well on several levels: as a slow but compelling journey through end-of-the-world encounters, as a grim but endearing buddy movie, and as an outlet for subtle social themes. Of course, the apocalyptic settings are the biggest focus, but it felt unique to have the danger come not from some monster but from other people, some of whom band together to support each other while others compete violently for limited resources. The relationship between Marc and Enrique is an unlikely pairing based on where they started before the disaster, but I liked the way they both relate to each other’s goals and fears, helping each other along the way. The social message I mentioned may come off as obvious in some ways, with people’s fear of leaving their homes taken to an extreme, but there are other understated themes broached, such as the concern of bringing children into a world of doubt and uncertainty.

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I entertained ranking The Last Days as a List Runner-Up, but the ending really put it over the top. For a film with so much depressing atmosphere and tragedy, it ends on a surprisingly uplifting note that in some ways felt like the kind of ending Passengers should have had if it had tried harder. I was also impressed by the quality acting and production values and particularly by one long tracking shot through a scene of chaos. (Have I mentioned I love those kinds of scenes?) Don’t expect a lot of action, but if you can buy into its uniquely subdued form of disaster, The Last Days has much good to offer.


Rank: List-Worthy


© 2018 S.G. Liput
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