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Festivals Film Reviews Mint Chinese Film Festival 2024

Review: The Last Year of Darkness. A beautiful farewell to a beloved haven

  • Release year: 2023
  • Director: Benjamin Mullinkosson.
  • Producers: Anita Gou, Sam Intili and Sol Ye.
  • Screenplay by: Benjamin Mullinkosson.
  • Cinematographers: Gena Baranov and Yanqiu Fei.
  • Music production: YouTooCanWoo.

Synopsis: the lives of a few partygoers get tangled due to their presence at Funky Town, a Chinese queer underground club.

Shotgun Commentary: amazing documentary full of emotion, intensity, and neon lights, that showcases the importance of having a community.

Still from The Last Year of Darkness (Ben Mullinkosson, 2023).

Review

The Last Year of Darkness is a documentary that follows the lives of a group of young adults who frequent a nightclub called Funky Town. This establishment is known for being an underground party hub for queer people. Aside from guaranteeing a night of fun, it is one of the few places where they can find respite. A much-needed break from whatever drama is going on in their lives.

The story follows a drag queen with a traumatic past, a depressed girl navigating a complicated relationship, and two DJs trying to find their way in life. This small crew gathers in Funky Town on a daily basis to party, but they are also followed around by the cameras during the rest of the day. With this filming strategy, the feature provides the audience with a bigger picture of their situation. Particularly, how their visits to the establishment improves their day-to-day life.

A party for your eyes

The editing is absolutely gorgeous. It is incredibly hard to show footage of a nightclub. But it is even harder to make it looks crisp and effortless as it is in the film. You can see everything that goes on as well as feel the familiar translucent atmosphere of clubs like this. The music does an amazing job accompanying the narrative and absorbing the spectators into it. So much so that you can find yourself inadvertently moving to its rhythm.

Still from The Last Year of Darkness (Ben Mullinkosson, 2023).

The lights, sound, frames, colours and arrangement of shots… Everything works together to form a symphony of experiences, feelings and drama that will stay with you long after the movie is over. For anyone who is a fan of neons and bold, brave aesthetics, this is a must-watch.

Both the bright, saturated nightlife, and the calm, quiet day life work together in a compilation of opposites as old as time, the essence of light and dark. Curiously, one can read even further into these concepts through The Last Year of Darkness since, for the protagonists, the darkness provides comfort and freedom, while the day is bleak and confusing. This yin and yang symbolism provides a more poetic dimension to the story while grounding it further into reality.

Relevant as ever

The subjects of the documentary could not be more fascinating. They represent the diversity that can be found in the youth nowadays. The never-ending fight for the right to be who one is has made it possible for a lot more people to be able to stop hiding, creating a society that can enjoy and celebrate the whole range of people that form it.

Still from The Last Year of Darkness (Ben Mullinkosson, 2023).

However, there is still a long way to go before everyone is accepting of others. A situation that makes the closure of establishments like Funky Town all the more sad, even though a similar club will replace it. The power of these places to bring together a community should never be overlooked. Thankfully, works like The Last Year of Darkness make sure it is remembered.

All the people shown in the documentary are proof of the need for a community. This need is accentuated when a big part of the society you live in doesn’t understand, respect, or tolerate you. Whether it is because of their sexual preferences, or economic situation, or looks, or mental health status, all the characters presented have a hard time making connections and being accepted. The narrative of their struggles and wins is fascinating to observe. Not so much for the sake of voyeuristic pleasure, but more so for the feeling of acceptance and honesty that it exudes.

All in all, The Last Year of Darkness is a great watch for anyone interested in real life narratives. And for anyone who just needs a hug, really. Despite its bittersweet ending, it is a positive and upbeat work that touches upon very heavy subjects in a very tasteful, but sincere, manner.

Advice to take from this movie:

  • Do what makes you happy, or you will live regretting your choices.
  • Childhood trauma can affect you your whole life, getting help is necessary to overcome it.
  • Drag queens will always rule the dance floor.
Still from The Last Year of Darkness (Ben Mullinkosson, 2023).

What’s your take? Have you watched The Last Year of Darkness? What’s your take on the end of clubs like Funky Town? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles, check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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