María Alvarez’ Last Days of the Lab is a touching look at healing despite grief. With two top-notch performances from Alex Felix and Arianna Ortiz, this short film will easily connect with audiences.
Mother Lucia (Arianna Ortiz) and daughter Isabel (Alex Felix) sift through old memories as they prepare to permanently close down their family’s photo lab.
Time is a cruel beast; it is something that only ever takes from us if we let it. With Isabel and Lucia, not only has time taken away Hugo, but technology has progressed to where a small photo lab business is now defunct, out of trend and need, causing the mother and daughter duo to lose that one central thread that kept Hugo alive for them. Last Days of the Lab is filled with grief and gently touches on endings. Everything sadly has one, but how we cope with such endings, be it personal or business, will help us in the next phase of our journey.
The small touches in Last Days of the Lab are what work on you as the viewer. We see those stickers covered over equipment, showing us a father who allowed his daughter to be herself. Pictures of his wife when she was younger under the counter clearly show how he would pass the time in the shop when away from his family. Even as it gradually empties, you feel the love that was present; it’s inescapable.
But also, that inescapable enemy time, Lucia can’t stand to see those photos of herself in her younger days. They bring too many memories, so instead of keeping them, treasuring them like Hugo did, she bins them. So, to help bring new memories, Isabel creates a new memory of mother and daughter together, which is beautiful. Once we get to that red room scene, there are so many emotions running through the characters and the film that you sense that a corner has been turned, while a melancholy-laden one, a corner all the same.
Letting go and moving on is never easy. Lucia and Isabel go about it in their own ways to the same forlorn outcome. Lucia pushes away those memories and thoughts, and Isabel tries to savour and keep them in any form possible. Only when they do so together do we feel confident that both can get through this. They are a family, and a united front, no matter the challenge, is always advantageous.
Alex Felix and Arianna Ortiz anchor this great short and give us compelling performances. Wrapped in grief that a distance has grown between them, they let the small moments take hold and allow the emotions from such situations to occur naturally. You buy into their relationship quickly, so when you get that last moment outside, you find yourself smiling, even if it is one with a tinge of sorrow.
A sweet but heart-rending film, Last Days of the Lab allows the melancholy to kick in and reside for a little while. Gentle but effective, María Alvarez has conjured up a great short film.
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