The Big Calm

Last Orders Starring Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins, Tom Courtenay, Helen Mirren, David Hemmings and Ray Winstone. Directed by Fred Schepisi. Rated R.
Rated 3.0 Based on a Graham Swift novel in which a group of middle-aged drinking pals mourn the death of one of their chums, this Fred Schepisi-directed film is notable chiefly for its grizzled all-star cast. Bob Hoskins, Tom Courtenay, David Hemmings and Michael Caine are the pals. Ray Winstone plays the stepson of the deceased, and Helen Mirren is the ambivalently grieving widow.

The stepson and the three surviving chums are driving to an out-of-season seaside resort to cast the departed pal’s ashes to the winds, in accordance with his last wishes. As such, they are part of a quasi-geriatric road movie drifting along at an appropriately funereal pace, with the passengers calling up memories (with sumptuous flashbacks for illustration) and reflecting the dynamics of timeworn friendships.

A strand of muted soap opera surfaces from time to time, especially in the relationship of the widow and solicitous pal Ray (Hoskins), which is festooned with flashbacks-within-flashbacks. But the chief pleasure of this amiably elegiac movie may be in the spectacle of assorted denizens of the erstwhile New British Cinema—Alfie (Caine), The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Courtenay), Blow-Up (Hemmings), O Lucky Man (Mirren) and The Long Good Friday (Hoskins)—growling, scheming, and bluffing their ways into the other end of life.