“It’s the first right thing I do for him, and it’s the last.”
Doing the right thing is central to Aoife Crehan’s premier feature film The Last Right. But right for whom? And how do we judge the right among multiple values that all have a claim as right?
Daniel Murphy (Michael Huisman) is a New York tax attorney heading back to Ireland for his mother’s funeral. Next to him on the plane is Padraig Murphy (no relation), who is taking his estranged brother’s body back to Ireland after 30 years with no contact. He says that at least they can be together in death even if not in life. When just before landing Padraig is found to have died, it’s discovered that he has listed Daniel as his next of kin.
When Daniel gets home for the funeral, we discover he has a brother, Louis (Samuel Bottonley), with autism. Daniel’s plan is to take Louis back to the US and place him in a special school. But when the authorities seek Daniel’s help dealing with Padraig’s body, a series of unlikely occurrences leads to Daniel and Louis driving the family Volvo the length of Ireland with the coffin strapped to the top of the car so that he can be buried along with his brother. Also along for the ride is a women they have just met, Mary (Niamh Algar).
At the same time, the authorities have decided to hold on to Padraig’s body. The Garda is after them for bodysnatching. When the story becomes national news, many people see what Daniel is doing as a kind sacrifice. By the time he gets to the church, just ahead of the Garda, many have turned out for the funeral of these two lonely brothers.
Along the way there are revelations (including a major one about the relationship between Louis and Daniel) and a budding romance with Daniel and Mary. All of which must turn into conflicts before the right thing to do is finally achieved.
The film is about 50% road movie, 40% romantic comedy, and 10% Rainman. The romcom aspects are the least compelling part of the film, especially when you consider that this trip and the resulting relationship happens in two days.
This is a film that shows how grace can come from unexpected sources. Daniel, although under duress, acts as a grace giver in hauling Padraig’s coffin to be joined with his brother, just as Padraig acted with grace to bring his brother’s remains home. But Daniel also is the recipient of grace in many ways along the way. And it is important to remember that grace is by definition unmerited. Daniel, who essentially operates from selfish motives, finds his life open up in new ways as he comes to know and appreciate Louis. It allows Daniel, who finds grace so frequently in the film to become a gracious person who can set aside his own selfish ways to welcome others into his life.
The Last Right is available in theaters and on demand.