Making the Grades
There is nothing sunny about the life of Harvey Shine’s (Dustin Hoffman). Arriving in London for his daughter’s marriage, the tired traveler, who had to fortify himself with a good stiff drink while flying, finds himself alone in a hotel room while the rest of the wedding party share a rented home nearby. The connection with his ex-wife Jean (Kathy Baker) and her new husband Brian (James Brolin) is still strained and his job as a jingle writer is in trouble. Disheveled and disillusioned, he tries to make the best of the situation.
The final blow comes, however, when Susan (Liane Balaban) announces she wants her stepfather to walk her down the aisle at the upcoming ceremony. Feeling pummeled from every angle, Harvey wanders into a Heathrow bar where he soothes his sadness with a couple of strong hits of liquor and a string of profanities. But his method for dealing with his troubles is challenged by Kate Walker (Emma Thompson), an airport employee, who is experiencing her own set of disappointments. Hobbled to her mother by means of a cell phone and recovering from a blind-date-gone-wrong, the unmarried Londoner is trying to lose herself in a good book and a glass of chardonnay. Though their initial interaction is rather prickly, the two unhappy adults are soon commiserating together over their gloomy situations.
Glad to finally find someone to confide in, Harvey is drawn to Kate’s quick wit and unflinching honesty. Despite their age, nationality and stature differences, their unusual association begins to flourish as they take solace in one another’s company. But even as their interest grows, the fear of facing yet another relationship failure casts a cloud over the budding romance.
The plot unfolds at a slow, meandering pace, which combined with the age of the actors, likely won’t have children and teens clamoring to see this film. Still, strong performances by the leading cast keep the story engaging in a quiet, unobtrusive way. And for any adult who’s suffered the detours and disappointments of life, the film offers a poignant reflection on reality.
While Harvey’s path in life might not follow the golden route he envisioned as a youth, Last Chance Harvey proposes that individuals can still find happiness and fulfillment—even when it feels like a last-ditch effort.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Last Chance Harvey.
How does Harvey’s regret and self-doubt over his past relationship with his ex-wife and daughter affect the way he feels about himself?
What chances do Harvey and Kate take during the film? Why is it important to be willing to move out of our comfort zones? How can change bring new opportunities?