Sundance 2020: The Last Shift

Shane Paul Mcghie and Richard Jenkins appear in The Last Shift by Andrew Cohn, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Mott Hupfel.

One man is preparing to call it quits in The Last Shift while training his replacement in a film that starts a conversation on social issues.

Stanley (Richard Jenkins) is closing in on his final graveyard shift at Oscar’s Chicken and Fish.  For this final weekend after 38 years, Stanley trains Jevon (Shane Paul McGhie) to take over the shift.  Throughout the weekend, we learn more about the characters.  For instance, Jevon is also a writer but he keeps ending up in trouble.  Stability seems to be a major problem for the young man, which also has an effect on his home life.  Meanwhile, Stanley isn’t a high school graduate.  Could he have a different life if he graduated?  I honestly don’t know.

There’s an incident that takes place during the film which results in Stanley getting beat him.  Instead of thinking through things rationally, Stanley places the blame on Jevon.  It’s one of those times where you feel that the film wants to start a conversation.  After all, there is a lot to unpack here.  If he had done his due diligence, he would certainly have known that Jevon had nothing to do with it.  Ultimately, Stanley gets what’s coming to him because karma is a bitch.

Writer-director Andrew Cohn is familiar with the story he’s telling because of his background as a documentary filmmaker.  He finds himself in familiar territory in order to explore a story that examines, race, class, and identity.  We have two major characters that couldn’t be further apart.  Again, this film’s hope is to start a conversation.  It certainly should.  Cohn really dives deep into the examination of social issues.  An incident took place while Stanley was in high school.  Jevon really takes him to task for this.  How Stanley responds honestly tells us a lot about who he is as a person.  News flash: it isn’t pretty.

The plot of the film not withstanding, Shane Paul McGhie is a star in the making.  If you’re unfamiliar with his work, it’s probably a good idea to start becoming familiar because we’ll be seeing him for years to come.  The actor certainly manages to hold his own against the Oscar nominee.  As for Jenkins, this is one of two Sundance films this year.  He delivers two strikingly different performances–more on Kajillionaire later!  All in all, The Last Shift is a showcase for both performers.

While the film is set in Albion, Mich., Chicago serves as the location for principal photography.  The film does its best to disguise the fact that its being filmed in the Chicago area but there are some dead giveaways.  They use CTA buses but you’d only know this if you’re familiar with public transit in Chicago.

The Last Shift serves to start a conversation while displaying some strong performances from its cast.

CAST: Richard Jenkins, Shane Paul McGhie, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Birgundi Baker, with Allison Tolman and Ed O’Neill

The Last Shift held its world premiere during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the Premieres program. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.