Story: Stanley (Richard Jenkins) has worked at Oscar’s Chicken & Fish for almost four decades and he has been a model employee for his entire career, though you wouldn’t know it at first glance. He never rose through the ranks or even reaped a financial bonus for his loyalty, but he doesn’t begrudge his bosses. Even after all these years, he seems grateful for the work, though it is about to end as he moves to care for his elderly mother. As part of his last weekend at Oscar’s, Stanley is tasked to train his replacement, someone in a much different situation. Jevon (Shane Paul McGhie) is a young man just getting started in life, a former writer who needs more practical work in the wake of both a child and a stint in prison. As Stanley prepares to finally leave and Jevon tries to figure out where he is headed, what paths will end up taken by both men?

Entertainment Value: The Last Shift is a well crafted, character driven drama that spotlights the performers and spins a grounded, engaging narrative. The story focuses on the two leads and how their lives intersect at this potential fork in the road for both, which gives both performers a lot to work with. Not a lot of bells & whistles or flashiness here, just a rock solid script and a terrific cast. That proves to be enough and The Last Shift never lost my attention, as even the exposition heavy stretches were bolstered by the cast and skilled writing. So the pace does slow at times, but this isn’t a kinetic film in terms of movement, so it has a natural, slow, but not dull timing approach. The movie needs that kind of slower approach at times, to let the characters get established and developed, which it accomplishes. There are some turns in the story of course, but they’re believable and don’t break the authentic, grounded atmosphere. I liked The Last Shift and to me, the performances alone warrant a look, but it is also just a solid overall movie.

This kind of material needs a great cast, since the characters drive the narrative and so much time is invested in the development of those characters. The Last Shift has no worries in that regard, as Richard Jenkins is fantastic here, in one of his finest turns, which is a true compliment. Jenkins feels natural and authentic, even when his character is strained to the limit or forced to face some hard truths. His performance centers the entire movie and is a great foundation to build around, since he is so on point with his work here. Shane Paul McGhie also shoulders a lot of the load here and does so well, always holding his own and fine tuning his effort. I’d say the movie’s best moments are when the two share the screen and have some interesting debates, but both also excel in their own segments as well. The cast also includes Ed O’Neill, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Allison Tolman, and Deron J. Powell.

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