DVD Review - The Last Letter (Black History Month)

Sharon Leal (left) and Omari Hardwick
in Paul D. Hannah's "The Last Letter"
What I like about this movie is the fact that we don't get too many like it. It's a movie that has echoes of Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski and even Steven Soderbergh a la Side Effects, except it stars a predominantly black cast. It's slightly film noir, but it's more of a psychological thriller that doesn't trade in typical, black stereotypes or bigotries.

It stars Sharon Leal (Dreamgirls and Why Did I Get Married?) who plays Catherine Clark, a woman who at the start marries Michael Wright, played by Omari Hardwick (Next Day Air and Sparkle), an ambitious architect. At the reception, Michael's mother Lorraine, played by Lynn Whitfield, makes it known that she doesn't like Catherine, if for nothing else then because little is known about the new bride.

The only thing known is that Catherine has two adoptive siblings, a brother named George Carter, played by Gary Dourdan (A Different World and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), and a sister named Claudia, played by Rocsi (106 & Park and Entertainment Tonight). All three were orphaned 20 years ago when a mysterious fire killed her adopted father. Ever since then, Catherine has had a sleepwalking disorder that has almost gotten her killed.

As the movie goes along, Catherine's unknown past comes back to haunt her in more ways than one. Crazy things occur as a result. Writer-director Paul D. Hannah (The Marriage Chronicles) embraces those crazy things. What begins as a domestic drama where a woman wants a baby and her man doesn't quickly devolves to murder and mayhem. It's a bit shocking when the first violent act occurs. It almost comes out of nowhere. Luckily, you believe it from the actors, but it feels like such a non-sequitor.

The only problem is the ending left me wondering what Hannah's message was. I can extrapolate that he wanted to underscore the bond and the desperation for siblings who come out the adoption system. Perhaps, he was getting at the death and destruction, both physical and emotional, that can result from again the abuses in the adoption system.

A surprising role from Marc Singer who I will always remember as the hunky star from The Beastmaster (1982) was a welcome here. Singer plays Michael's boss at the architecture or design firm.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.


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