The Last Post (Short, 2011)
Written and directed by Axelle Carolyn
Produced by Witching Hour Films
Ghost stories can be many things. We're used to seeing them as fright-filled horrors with phantoms that appear and scare the hell out of folks. But a ghost story can actually be a beautiful story as well. Without the benefit of being truly frightening, a ghost story can leave us "haunted" by feelings of joy or even peace. Axelle Carolyn accomplishes that goal with a simple story and minimal cast and sets with her short The Last Post.
Elderly Colette (played with perfect dignity and grace by Jean Marsh) is living her final days out in an assisted living home. She spends her hours between remembering things that happened to her, gazing out the window, and chatting with her friendly nurse, played by Kimberly Nixon. One day she gets a visitor, a man who doesn't talk and whom no one else can see.
To be clear, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what's going to happen or what's going on in the story. But that's not the point. This short is all about Jean Marsh's Colette. Through a simple turn of her head, a twitch of her mouth, or even a heavy sigh, Marsh draws the audience in and makes them instantly like her. Moreover, she makes them care what happens to her. Considering the short running time of just over eleven minutes, that's a pretty impressive feat.
Of course, the rest of the credit has to go to writer/director Carolyn. While the story doesn't really break any new ground, the direction is good, conveys the sense of a satisfied life winding down, and provides Marsh with enough tools to really shine. It is a shame that we don't get to see more of Bransford or Nixon, as it's really impossible to form an opinion of their acting abilities or their characters in the brief amount of screentime they have. They do, however, do their jobs well by framing the story around Marsh and keeping the focus where it belongs - on her.
The Last Post is not a horror film. Don't go into it expecting to be scared or creeped out in the slightest. True, it's a ghost story, but it is more than that. In the end it is, above anything else, a beautiful end to a woman's life story.
4 1/2 out of 5