“The Last Day of August” focuses on a recently paralyzed recluse in upstate New York whose Manhattan friends pay him a surprise visit in order to (hopefully) drag him back to the old life he’s abandoned. Decently crafted but with not quite enough up its narrative sleeve to make a memorable impact, writer-director Craig DiFolco’s debut feature leaves one waiting for explosive revelations that never arrive. It had a limited theatrical opening on Oct. 4, though the modest drama is more likely to find an audience via VOD.
After losing the use of his legs in a car wreck, Dan (Michael Izquierdo) went north to a rural family vacation house, ostensibly to spend a couple of weeks getting his head together. But now months have passed, during which he’s cut off communication with everyone back home. As a result, best friends Mark (Sebastian Arcelus), Chris (Bill English) and Phoebe (Vanessa Ray) — Dan’s fiance before the accident — show up uninvited on his doorstep. They’re unwelcome, too, as he makes abundantly clear. Despite his protestations, however, they take his hermitage and obvious turn toward heavy drinking as cries for help.
Rather refreshingly, given the conventions of such narratives, Dan really, truly doesn’t want to be “saved,” or to return to his old life. Nor is he completely alone; he’s more or less cohabiting with local waitress Shannon (Heather Lind), and has an uncomplicated, party-hearty social life with her fellow “townie” friends (Julie Sharbutt, Lauren Worsham, Rhett Henckel). But he hasn’t told Shannon anything about his past, and when she awkwardly meets the invading interventionists, she’s furious at him for being so secretive.
He finally tells her the details of the accident in a climactic monologue. Yet after withholding most exposition for nearly its whole running time, “The Last Day of August” doesn’t really provide enough insight to reward that long a wait. There’s enough material here for a half-hour short or a one-act play (which in some ways it’s better suited for), but the character and plot reveals simply aren’t complicated or surprising enough to justify feature length, let alone a structure that raises expectations of a more dramatic conclusion.
Nonetheless, performances and packaging are never less than competent, suggesting DiFolco and company are capable of better things once they write or find a script that better fulfills its own promise.