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Between a shallow view of people with mental illness and a shoddy story, The Last Letter seems like something needing to be re-written.
Trigger Warning(s): Child Neglect/ Abuse & Depiction of Mental Illness
Review (with Spoilers)
After seeing Omari Hardwick in Things Never Said I found myself wondering if he had anything else out there to see, thus leading me to stumble on this. Now, like a many of the films I review, I have heard nothing of this movie and didn’t find that too surprising. The reason I say that is because the movie is filled with what, for the Black community, would be some of the biggest supporting actors/actresses, or ones you just rarely see in mainstream films. But, considering most of these actors have at least had one good role, I thought perhaps this could add to their list.
Characters & Story
When the movie begins we are presented with a love story in which seemingly Cathrine (played by Sharon Leal) has seemingly just lost her husband Michael (played by Omari Hardwick). The movie then rewinds and shows us what lead up to Cathrine heading to her husband’s grave. We see them get married, have a child and learn quite a bit about the characters as well.
Cathrine, for example, is a former foster kid, and former waitress, who had the dream of having the family she never got to. For while she does have two foster siblings, George (played by Gary Dourdan) and Claudia (played by Rocsi), who are like her real brother and sister, she feels like having a husband and child is what she needs. Enter Michael who sees her one day at the restaurant she works at and the two fall in love, and then get married much more quicker than Michael’s mom Lorraine (played by Lynn Whitfield) would prefer, and in fact she says their marriage is a mistake on the wedding day, and repeats these later on. And all I’m going to say is, considering Cathrine and her foster sibling’s actions/ lives, she was right.
When it comes to praising this movie, I must admit, while I may not be fond of the overall product, there are certain elements done well. For example, there is one mystery dealing with a fire of the foster home Claudia, Cathrine and George lived in which I felt was done well and I would have even loved to see as a stronger focus in the movie. Also, amongst the cast, I do like Hardwick and Whitfield’s characters & their performances, but outside of that, I can’t think of anything positive which stands out.
And the reason for that is this movie combines mental illness, trauma, and other factors in such a way which simply doesn’t work, at least for me. Take for example Cathrine’s issues. Once discovered, we learn that she is one of those people who don’t take her medication, and after a few scares you begin to wonder why Michael isn’t doing more for his wife who, obviously, can’t be left by herself, much less with a baby. Then, on top of that, you have characters like George who almost seem like they belong in a separate movie for Dordan’s intensity and actions almost make it seem like he doesn’t fully belong. Leading to one last issue: multiple times in the film either law enforcement, or the courts, get involved and in both cases, things turn out in such a way which seems so unreal that it turns you off. I mean, for one example, Cathrine mental illness gets her off, completely it seems, for something you’d think would lead to her being committed, going to jail, or something.
Overall: TV Viewing
A part of me wants to say to skip it, but at the same time the movie isn’t so bad that it isn’t worth watching if nothing else is on. The reason I say this is because, despite its shallow depiction of those with mental disorders, it isn’t horrible. If anything, I’d say the concept perhaps is/was better than the execution. For while Hardwick and Whitfield do well in their roles, I do feel Leal and Dourdan were either over the top or made you wonder how much research was done.