The Last Shift
Andrew Cohn's The Last Shift is a promising debut feature for the writer/director. Richard Jenkins and Shane Paul McGhie display good chemistry, filling in each respective role with enough substance to warrant watching their relationship unfold, but the film lacks a closing punch, deflating on itself during the last act.
The Last Shift is writer/director Andrew Cohn‘s debut feature, landing with a ton of promise as stars Richard Jenkins and Shane Paul McGhie control the screen with their oddball relationship that unfolds organically, making for a film that’s about much more than working the graveyard shift at a local fast food joint.
Stanley (Richard Jenkins) is ready to hang up the apron after having worked the overnight shift at a local chicken restaurant for 38 years. Stanley lives alone, saving up all of his money to go and stay with his mom, while taking pride in his reign as the long-standing deliverer of late night hot eats.
Jevon (Shane Paul McGhie) is a young man recently released from incarceration, serving out his probation, which requires him to hold down a job. He takes the first opportunity that he can get, which is to replace Stanley. Jevon is a bright individual, having a strong passion for writing and a desire to get more out of life, currently living on a blow-up mattress in his mom’s house with his girlfriend and newly-born son. Jevon is simply trying to make things work, while also reacting to the ever-changing world around him, which has proven to be more than unfair.
Stanley and Jevon’s initial relationship is very much like what you’d expect as far as predictable “old school” vs “new school” is concerned. Stanley automatically assumes that Jevon is lazy and ungrateful, while Jevon laughs at Stanley’s inability to realize that his job is far from glorious and that the blind appreciation he has towards corporate greed is wasted on people that don’t really care.
Still, the two organically come together as they share various experiences that come with the territory of working a late-night restaurant gig, including throwing out the local drunk and deep cleaning the greasy and grimy equipment.
Slowly, they form a bond that is almost immediately tested as Jevon asks Stanley about a racial incident that occurred during Stanley’s high school years. Stanley wasn’t directly involved, but this event seems to have made a lasting impact on both men.
The Last Shift is a promising full-length feature debut by writer/director Andrew Cohn. It’s structured light, focusing on its two leads and their immediate world, yet it feels heavy on occasion as it swings towards topical conversations that spark genuine responses from both men.
Richard Jenkins and Shane Paul McGhie give a pair of performances that feel lived-in and true. Both men bring plenty to unpack, with Jenkins’ Stanley covering the bases with age and experience and McGhie’s Jevon firing back with the urgency of our current culture and his own experience on life.
These are two drastically different men that have so much in common and Cohn’s ability as a writer to interweave their stories is impressive, if not imperfect.
My single biggest issue with this film is its ending and its inability to stick the landing. Cohn write both characters in a direction that unfolds with ease, yet he sort of ends things on a note that feels like the film was cut twenty or thirty minutes short.
Both characters come to their own individual conclusions which fills out their journey fine, but there’s no feeling to it. It ends on such a cold and unexpected note that dismisses the momentum that Cohn has otherwise had no issues building on.
Knowing that The Last Shift is Cohn’s first film makes this an excusable, but disappointing understanding as there’s clear talent on display here and I’d love to see Cohn’s next film stick the landing in a more satisfying way.
The Last Shift is a film that is going to appeal to those looking for a lighter drama that is anchored on two good performances. There are some rough edges that might annoy some more than others, but I found the film to mostly be a fine exercise in character drama, with the actual story leaving more to be desired. I appreciate Cohn’s attempt at diving into more complicated drama, but I think that he bit off more than he could chew, leaving the film feeling a bit misaligned when it’s all said and done.