The Last Suit looks different from the way it did in the Toronto Jewish Film Festival a few months ago. Early versions used black and white to show the present day scenes and colour for the flashbacks. But everything is in colour now. It also feels worse the second time around for many reasons.
Its plot is still the same, which concerns a retired Argentinian Jewish man, Abraham Burzstein (Miguel Angel Sola). His family wants to send him to a home. He also has a disease that requires him to lose one of his legs. He’s having none of that, choosing to make a last suit.
This is mostly a melodrama that reminds us of the pitfalls of old age. He’s not your typical old man, though, as he’s actually from Poland. He left that country after surviving the Holocaust. The flashbacks aren’t many but we get too much of the score to get that point across.
And the flashbacks come eventually. The actor playing young Abraham is fine. We see him walking what looks like a short distance, but not for someone who just left the camps. There’s a lack of subtlety in here. And the’re obvious airbrushing here to make a modern city looks like postwar Lodz.
Although in these flashbacks we finally see why Abraham is making the journey in the first place. The last suit is for a man, the only person in Lodz who bothered to care for him post-camp. Everyone else rendered him invisible.
Sola is good in The Last Suit, having a handle on Yiddish. He also giving what the director wants in him – a cantankerous old man. There are several scenes involving Abraham and the perils of modern travel, Sola reveling at the comic side of that. He’s a delight to watch often.
But the more time the audience spends with Abraham, the more we realize that this is basically a stock character. The movie’s tonal misfires are also beyond control. There’s also a manipulative side to him that the movie doesn’t address. That would have given him a complexity that would have made things better.
It also goes all over the place. Throughout Abraham’s journey, with its many stops along Europe, he meets women from his past and present. One of them is Maria (Angela Molina), the Madrilenian hostel owner where he’s staying. She also turns out to be a lounge singer. Cue the meet cuts where they start off hating each other but eventually don’t.
Another woman is Abraham’s daughter, Claudia (Natalia Verbeke) who, shocking, also lives in Madrid. Maria convinces him to talk to her since a robbery leaves him penniless. Sola is good at conveying pain. But with this plot point is one of many that exposes the movie’s reliance on tropes. And the Shakespearean reference is cloying this time around.