The Last to See Them
(Sara Summa)

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This concept of a film, in what frequently registers more as a thought experiment, sees an Italian family inhabit their farm in placid domesticity. The film opens with the ominous image of a car driving through the winding road of the Italian countryside, as director Sara Summa deploys a series of text to inform the viewer that today the Durati family will die. Knowing this, we observe the daily minutiae of tasks that involve this family with a heightened sense of unease, aware that this is the last day these characters will be alive:  the father is taxed by being the sole breadwinner, an ailing wife attempts to recuperate, a daughter is burdened with task upon task while trying to hold onto a boyfriend, and a son is in the throes of an adolescent identity crisis.

Summa’s insistence is one that requires her audience to do the heavy lifting, instilling drama and discomfort in scenes that would otherwise register as routine and uninspired. It’s academic, but Summa’s photography is often so natural and well-composed that it’s hard to be caught up in the warmth she instills. Yet it’s difficult not to see the film as anything more than a gimmick, an attempt to heighten reality through the artificial knowledge of the future. A film like Robert Greene’s Kate Plays Christine reprimands its viewer in its anticipation of known violence. With The Last to See Them, Summa opts for something different, with the results proving to be immediately more cathartic than expected. Mileage will vary wildly, but ultimately I found Summa’s stylism to lend itself to evocation over provocation. The Last to See Them is thoughtful in a way that could not be anticipated.