‘Last Night in Rozzie’ is directed by Sean Gannet from a script by born and bred Boston screenwriter Ryan McDonough. The title premiered at the 2021 Independent Film Festival Boston and is the feature-length version of the duo’s 2017 short flick of the same name. This movie stars Neil brown Jr., Nicky Whelan, and Jeremy Sisto and debuted in theatres on September 17.
The name Rozzie is in reference to Roslindale, and this modern-day drama pays homage to the Bostonian way of life with local references such as Faulkner Hospital, Jamaica way, Dedham, and Fenway Monsters Seats, just to name a few bringing forth the nostalgia for both the lead character and the viewers who have lived in the city and great resonation with the residents.
‘Last Night in Rozzie’ brings audiences to bear witness to the reviving of old emotional wounds as a man attempts to manage a friendship that has been dead for decades while dealing with his own issues.
To strengthen the unease in the narrative, Ryan McDonough strives to successfully build a character analysis that examines dual experiences for most of the roles examining lies told to comfort and deceive.
The movie follows the story of two childhood friends, Ronnie, played by Neil Brown Jr., and Joey, a role by Jeremy Sisto, who are now estranged. Ronnie is a successful corporate attorney working in New York City, grappling with issues with his clients, which keep him immensely occupied. One day he receives a call from his longtime friend whom he hasn’t spoken to or seen in the last 25 years. The thing is, Joey is on the verge of death. He is suffering from liver disease thanks to a life spent on heavy drinking. The situation is so bad that if he doesn’t get a transplant soon, he will be no more. Hopes of this happening are dim, and he starts making peace with his life as he prepares for his final journey on this earth.
The surprising call is to ask Ronnie to find his son J.J embodied by James DeFilippi so he could say his goodbyes. Joey hasn’t seen J.J who is now a teen for the last ten years because of a fall out with his ex-wife Pattie a role by Nicky Whelan after he almost killed the entire family while drunk driving. But for Ronnie to fulfill his pal’s dying wish, he must find Pattie. Things get tricky because Pattie is Ronnie’s childhood crush. For the sake of his friend, he tries to reconnect with Pattie; however, past memories from his childhood continue haunting him cutting open the trauma he has concealed over the years. He later learns that Pattie was once married to Joey with the marriage ending terribly.
The story of young Ronnie budding around with Joey, a tough kid with a shared love for baseball, takes place in 1994. The narrative lets out piece meals in the form of flashbacks for the audiences to better understand why Ronnie would even consider fulfilling Joey’s request, to say the least considering the kind of person Joey is. Scenes constantly switch in between the past life growing up in Boston, leaving the town, severing ties with Joey to his present-day living a fast-paced life as an attorney. Instead of dwelling on the bittersweet reunion, the script goes straight to presenting Ronnie in detective mode as he gathers information to make his first move on Pattie to commence his mission.
The plot holds the viewers’ interest from the beginning of the movie till the end. McDonough interestingly builds his characters around the mystery concerning Joy’s actions. Ronnie, who is battling his own internal demons and even sometimes inflicts harm on himself, starts building a relationship with J.J to the extent of becoming his guardian. His friendship with Pattie who responds positively to his presence also picks up and this drives Joey nuts.
Dealing with a grounded level of concern, the plot feels pretty satisfying; however, offering an insight into the whole thing as the various bits and pieces all come together in combining the terms of friendship and past horrific experiences do rattle the audience’s senses.
‘Last Night in Rozzie’ works excellently with the aspect of Ronnie embracing difficult encounters and psychological struggles as he comes to terms with the long-lived consequences of his mistakes.
The cinematography is gorgeous. The themes discussed in the movie a quite universal, ranging from reminiscing on the past to parents and their children to the yoke of loyalty and the ties of friendship. They echo past relationships and choices, which are inescapable, and encourage the masses to stop running away from problems and embrace the mistakes of their past to move forward. It teaches audiences to pause, discover themselves, explore their values and build authentic, genuine, and loyal personal relations.
After watching this movie, one might wonder why Ronnie would even consider being friends with someone like Joey, who we learn is not a straightforward and truthful person. Instead, he is downright deceitful at times, but as we found out earlier, there is more to it as the flashbacks shed light on the background story.
The performances by all the actors are powerful and moving. The cast members admirably get their Boston accents just right, and that is no small feat. Jeremy Sisto is fantastic as Joey, the douche bag looking for redemption who still manages to make one feel for him despite his past and current behavior. The introduction of Ronnie’s alienated mother, Margaret, played by Maurren Kieller, works wonders as it enlightens audiences in regards to Ronnie’s difficult childhood.
So much attention was paid to the significant details and the nitty-gritties of this film. It is tight, keeps the secrets well-hidden, and slowly and steadily unravels the truth. It is packed with great acts, a compelling storyline, a ton of heart, and some genuinely hilarious moments that make it a great watch. The protagonist’s psychological suffering might be too immense to heal in a few days, but the ending is still potent.