A boy learns some difficult lessons about life and death in this touching and tenderly amusing drama. THE LAST WINTER was produced for Canadian television in 1989 and released on US home video in 1995.
The 1950's. Young Will Jamieson (Joshua Murray) lives happily on the family farm in rural Manitoba, Canada. Along with his pesky brother, John (Nathaniel Moreau), and his adorable sister, Winnie (Katie Murray), Will attends a one-room schoolhouse with a dozen or so other children and spends his
free time riding horses, playing games, and trapping gophers. Will figures that since the earth is hurtling around the sun, he need never leave the farm to go anywhere, and that's fine by him. Life has other plans for Will, though. Adolescence has made him awkward in his own body and pushed his
close friendship with his cousin, Kate (Marsha Moreau), into an awkward area. The real crisis facing Will, however, is a government job offer for his father (David Ferry) that will require the Jamiesons to move to "the big city." Will accuses his family of wanting to trade away "everything" just
for indoor plumbing.
Will is very close to his grandfather, Jack (Gerard Parkes). When Will tells him about a beautiful, white horse he's seen galloping around the countryside, Grampa Jack tells Will about a similar horse that he had when he was a boy (named Winter), that unfortunately perished in a blizzard. When the
family starts making plans for their move, Grampa Jack announces that he'll be staying on the farm--he's lived there all his life, and he's too old to make a change. Very upset, Will runs off. That night, a snowstorm finds Jack and Will alone on the farm. When Jack collapses, Will tries to go for
help, but crashes the car. Will is miraculously rescued by Grampa Jack (with "Winter" in tow), who leads the boy home. There, Will discovers his grandfather's body. The film's last shot shows the Jamiesons packed up and leaving the farm, headed for the city and the future.
Written and directed by Aaron Kim Johnston, THE LAST WINTER is simply a very well-told story, modestly produced with a modest cast. With an air of nostalgic reminiscence about it, a dash of Canadian-style, understated magic realism thrown in, and not a dishonest moment to be found, the film is
both disingenuous and charming. Though trumpeting itself as ideal family entertainment, it may be a difficult sell for young viewers accustomed to the flashy manipulation of Hollywood narratives. Modern kids may have trouble understanding Josh's attachment to a world of outhouses and no TV--no
matter how appealing the idea of riding a horse to school might be; yet anyone old enough to recall simpler times as "the good old days" will be delighted by the film. Johnston could have alleviated potential problems and spelled things out more by framing the story from a contemporary context
with voice-over narration, but then that certainly would have diminished the impact of Josh Murray's wonderful portrayal of Will, and our seeing the world through his eyes.
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: PG
- Review: A boy learns some difficult lessons about life and death in this touching and tenderly amusing drama. THE LAST WINTER was produced for Canadian television in 1989 and released on US home video in 1995. The 1950's. Young Will Jamieson (Joshua Murray) lives… (more)