The Last Keepers, 2013.
Directed by Maggie Greenwald.
Starring Aidan Quinn, Virginia Madsen, Olympia Dukakis and Zosia Mamet.
A young woman and her family discover she has magical powers, possibly fulfilling a prophecy that has been in their family for years. She must negotiate that with the everyday tribulations of school and growing up.
The Last Keepers is a coming of age tale. With a coming of age family drama. With magic?
It’s with this slightly sarcastic front that I met the film, a synopsis about a young woman’s story of growing up with magical potential not grabbing me as much as, say, explosions and men wearing capes. But part of the way through I realised, though not perfect, The Last Keepers is a film you need to meet halfway. If done so, it’s an enjoyable, if short movie that tells the age-old story that growing up is hard. Even if you do have magic. Maybe that makes it even more difficult. But in the end, we all have our own qualities as well as things that could be better, just like The Last Keepers.
The story begins way back in time, with a magical prophecy and a magical family going back hundreds of years. But now we’re in modern time, and it’s time for Rhea Carver (Mamet) to learn about what it is to be a woman, i.e. get magical powers.
It’s this allegory the film hides from its audience up until the final scene, meaning the message never comes across as hackneyed despite the fact hundreds of stories before this one have been told concerning the subject of adolescence. Drops of information about the prophecy and glimpses of how Rhea will deal with learning about her newfound powers are given, which means the film eventually finds a way to bring across the coming of age aspect without being cliché or cute and post modern.
The characters are, like the performances, good enough but nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s all functional without being anything exciting. The grandmother has sufficient steel while also being in touch with her emotions to know what should be done, and that sometimes the best way to help that come about is sitting back. The mother who doesn’t realise she perhaps isn’t as mature or capable as she wants her daughter to be is something we’ve seen before, and in fact could almost be guaranteed with the family and story that’s set up.
The one-line deliverers in the town and at Rhea’s school are one-dimensional. Bullies are bullies, just because. Although that does sound realistic in that we never really know why anyone bullies us, they still feel more like plot movers as opposed to people. They then almost in an instant go from hating Rhea to loving her in the course of one makeover. And this is the morning after the ‘cool’ kids go to her house, set fire to a witch effigy and murder a small animal. The makeover to popularity is extreme and, honestly, nonsensical.
Technically, the film ticks the boxes. The colour palette really bring across this feeling of nature clashing with the colder locations of the school. Home is warm whilst the school featuring bullies is not a welcoming place. It’s an obvious message, but not one that’s bought across in an over the top way. The small amount of effects work and the film hides the fact it’s not a huge budget breaker well, instead concentrating on getting through it’s plot at the right pace.
A soundtrack that is at times used well, at others is cliché and too prominent in scenes, seems to have been one step short of an after thought. No one song connects with either the scene or with me as I watched. In fact, a glaze appeared in front of the eyes as a middle of the road song blared over the imagery, an awakening only occurring once it was all over.
The ending is a little jarring; with a change in tone that doesn’t fit in with the smoother way the rest of the story is told. The perhaps sudden end to the movie does help get the point about what its story is really about across but with a slender running time perhaps more could be added to give it the feeling of more weight. The environmental message is tacked on in that sense. The main characters representing what could be in humanity if only we cared enough. Except they still use a fridge and cars, despite all the showier efforts of recycling materials for clothes.
The Last Keepers, featuring a house full of freewheeling artists and free spirits, pretends it’s all about magic and prophecies when it is in fact all about family togetherness. The prophecy plotline is barely touched on, with more time being spent on a young woman coming of age. All the other stuff doesn’t matter, which is a simple but great way to tell a story. While you’re sitting there wondering what will happen with her magical powers and how she has the potential to change the world, the film creeps up on you and reveals it’s more about the hurdles in those teenage years.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Matt Smith – follow me on Twitter.