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SXSW ’12 Review: “The Last Fall” Delivers An Earnest Look At Life After Football

SXSW '12 Review: "The Last Fall" Delivers An Earnest Look At Life After Football

Matthew Cherry’s directorial debut effort The Last Fall is one that we have followed from its inception on this site via our S&A Filmmaker’s Diary.  It’s almost surreal that almost a year later the film is screening at SXSW Film Festival!

Kyle Bishop, played by Lance Gross, is forced into early retirement from football. Kyle faces the realization of starting a new life aside from all he has known, loved and worked diligently for. The statistics are real. Kyle’s predicament is very relevant for many professional football players and to aspiring ones, many of them African American.

The game of football, however, is not the focus of The Last Fall; it’s easy to have that impression from what wee see in the trailer and some of the film’s advertising efforts. The Last Fall is a family and romance drama that deals with the relationships affected by Kyle’s chase of an elusive, fleeting and/or fickle football career.

Kyle comes back home to stay with his mother and sister, played by Vanessa Bell Calloway and Yaani King, respectively. He also has to face his estranged father (Keith David), who is suffering at the hospital from a heart condition.

We understand Kyle losing motivation to pursue his career, his passion for football lost upon his circumstances. There is tension among family members; his mother urges Kyle to see his ailing father. Kyle feels helpless regarding his father’s situation and has refused to visit or keep in contact with him. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were other conflicts behind his reluctance to keep in touch with him.  Kyle’s mother is also the cause of much chagrin to Kyle’s sister. There are references to this conflict, but there’s simply not enough time to reconcile all these different relationship dynamics.

This can ultimately leave the impression of the film being unfocused. To writer/director Cherry’s credit, it’s difficult to juggle the different subplots, which include rekindling a romance with his high school sweetheart, what is left of his football career and his goals in life; it’s hard to reconcile all these aspects of his life in 98 minutes. 

At the core of the film though, is his relationship with his high school sweetheart Faith, played by Nicole Beharie. Faith now has a son and an ex-boyfriend (son’s father) who is attempting to remain an active presence in the life of Faith and of their son. Much of Kyle and Faith’s past is left to speculation. We know their romance did not end in good terms, as indicated in the scene where they meet again.

After seven years, Faith holds a grudge. Kyle obviously chose his career over her, but her apathetic demeanor towards him doesn’t seem to justify her anger towards him. Their romance, however, is rekindled at a fast pace. Since their relationship is at the forefront of the film, I wish story focused on what caused the disintegration of their relationship the first time around. Gross and Beharie though, ultimately exude a natural and convincing chemistry. Their climactic key scenes are well acted and Beharie’s performance prevent her character from becoming unlikable.

There are good performances throughout. Calloway believably plays a mother who may seem selfish and emotionally aloof in pursuing her own interests aside from the lives of her children. Veteran actor Keith David, who plays Kyle’s father, is enjoyable to watch. There’s also a charismatic supporting turn from Mike Moss as Kyle’s friend and confidant.

Although the film falters from being unfocused due to multiple subplots, The Last Fall is an admirable effort from director Cherry. He was able to infuse the story with earnest sentimentality; much credit for that goes to Lance Gross; he competently anchors this film, and embodies a football player coming to grips with retirement at the age of 25.  The film has definite appeal that audiences can enjoy; Cherry’s music video direction experience comes in handy in here and infuses the story with urban and commercial visual stimulation, also energizing the narrative with the film’s soundtrack.

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I just saw the film at the urabanworld film festival and I enjoyed it. The music in the film was GREAT!

Donnie Leapheart

I have to admit that I was really indifferent about seeing this film initially. Based on the synopsis for the film and the trailer released, it looked to be a paced character melodrama as opposed to being an exciting film about life on the gridiron. And that's okay, just not generally my type of thing. Based on all what I read in the polarizing comments below, now I want to see it more than ever. So if Matthew Cherry or anyone in his corner is reading, remember the adage: All press is good press. Sidenote: Hard to take any of these criticisms and accusations seriously if people aren't brave enough to attach their real names to them.

Also At SXSW

I was also at the first screening at SXSW, and I want to back up what the other attendees there have said. It seemed to me like it was a positive screening and I didn't notice anyone walking out and there were tons of questions and compliments. Even this one older white lady who was there by herself turned to me and said, "That was great!"

Now, I actually did have problems with the movie, it was slow and repetitive, with totally unnecessary characters and subplots, but it was not that bad. The acting was good for the most part! I have seen twitter reviews that have been bad but I've also talked to many people that seemed to have really liked it! And these people are totally unrelated to Cherry. Even the lead editor of indiewire seemed to have liked it in her article "Why VOD Will Rule SXSW" (

And I found this positive review on twitter by HM Magazine (and they seem unrelated to Cherry):

So even though myself and others had our problems with the movie, there are some people that like it. Just wanted to be fair and show that there are both good reviews and bad ones.

Miles Maker

I really don't want to lose respect for this site. I want to value every review, believe every reviewer and feel proud to support a Black movie blog on with every visit. But when I read the thread below, all I can do is shake my head. Is this jealousy, contempt, seething animosity or just plain ol' hood ratchetness? We're completely off-topic here and many of these comments have almost entirely nothing to do with Matthew A. Cherry's movie.

S&A should implement what most reputable blogs have long since done, which is require an authenticated sign-in to post comments. We all desire and deserve to see everyone's opinion and acknowledge differing perspectives with courteous discourse–provided we're willing to claim ownership of our words.

As for this so-called review, S&A is surely compromised. There's more plot spoiler above than the kind of unapologetic cinematic critique we've come to expect around here. This hurts the S&A brand and it hurts THE LAST FALL more than it helps, because in its failed attempt at a movie review, S&A inadvertently implies this film isn't worth seeing (which is simply not true).

We're not here to make movies everyone Loves and we don't make movies to receive favorable reviews either. We make movies because we Love to make movies, and we're all works in progress until the day we stop making them.


Warning! Before yoearache 10 minutes of your life reading the nonsense below, beware that it's two or three people under a bunch of different names saying the same stuff and ignoring and belittling anyone who has tried to out forth a positive or varying opinion. I wish someone would have warned me.


Vanessa definitely handled reviewing this film with kid gloves. Still curious to see it for myself.


Gosh this is scary. You piss somebody off and they wage war on you to be immortalized forever against your movie online. Make me not wanna put nothing out! LOL!!!!


The film was a bore and no, I have no agenda against the director. Lack of tough skin in hearing the fact that people don't like your work (people including if they are friends and fans of the director) is a sign of weakness.


I was also in attendance at the first screening of The Last Fall at SXSW and I didn't see one person walk out of the theater. I personally left the theater feeling like there is hope for people who can appreciate smart black filmmaking. Someone mentioned the comments on twitter after the premiere and I find it interesting that we as Black folks are quick to jump on the bandwagon of a few white folks who find discomfort in seeing Black complex characters who are honest and loving towards one another with no fights, no guns, no baby momma drama, thugs, drug and the like. There are also certain undertones and nuances that the some (esp non-white folks) just might not get, but I got it without all of the explanations/background stories, etc because I know these people in my family, friends, etc. I applaud Matthew for showing a young black couple in a leading role who are both romantic and vulnerable. It was also refreshing to see black women with very brown complexions and men who loved them – this is rare on any screen. Overall the acting was great, the story was very solid and I can clearly see that Matthew has a bright future as a writer/director.


everyone who has seen this film says it is a snoozefest…


I'm looking forward to seeing the film. I've learned that most reviews never match what I'm thinking since we all bring our personal pool of experience and knowledge into our review. As always, I respect the process.

And as an FYI…I've enjoyed following Matthew's progress on this site and am, as always, thankful you guys are giving Black filmmakers this platform.


Hi. I don't usually leave comments but I thought I would add a few thoughts. I was at the first screening at the Alamo Lamar. Being an Austin resident, Black man and an admirer of movies, I always go to SXSW, AustinFest and FantasticFest. Our city is a great festival city. I almost never see Black movies at these places so I was very excited to see The Last Fall. Matthew Cherry was there and so was Lance Gross and a few other supporting actors and the producers, including one who plays in the NFL.

The movie is solid. Solid is the word I would that popped into my head when I left the screening. It is definitely told from the POV of someone who has lived it and it had that level of authenticity. You learn things about these pro athletes that are basically servants to the league. Especially how they live and make ends meet and struggle. I have only seen Lance Gross in the America Ferrera movie since I'm not a watcher of Tyler Perry stuff. He held his own with vets like Vanessa Bell Calloway, Keith David, Obba B and Harry Lennox. All of the vets were excellent and had an ease about their performances by the way. I really like those four and what they did. I feel like we have so many great actors wh don't get the good screen time anymore and I was glad that Matthew Cherry put them in the mix like he did.

The real story of the movie is the chemistry between LanceGross and Nicole Beharie which is very strong and believable. She was excellent. She is the best performance in the movie. There is a scene where she basically debates herself out loud about whether she should be with hm or not that knocked me out. She raised Lance's game I think. Their scenes just talking to each other where something special. I don't very often see 20somethings talking real about life and love and issues around loyalty and family. I thought MatthewCherry's dialogue in those scenes and the performances he got from everyone, especially when the main couple is together, was very good.

The little boy in the movie was overacting a little. I could have used more of Keith David as Lance's father earlier on in the movie. But those are really my only two complaints. I laughed and I felt something in the dramatic parts. I cannot slam this movie and anyone who was at the premiere knows that the audience was into it. I didn't see any walkouts. The crowd was laughing and sighing and stuff in many parts. Many ladies in the audience gasped out loud with delight at some of Lance and Nicole various lines,etc.

What else can I say? There was a question and answer after that had to be cut off by the festival because there was so many questions. The actors and producers and Matthew were there and friendly and accessible. I saw Ava Duverney there and Gina McCauley of What About Our Daughters. The producers gave out posters and football towels with Last fall on it from Gatorade to guests. It was a cool screening of a solid movie.

I don't know where all the bad blood is coming from about it. I think that is unfortunate because the movie was real cool. I think people should give it a chance when it comes their way.


Vanessa really held Cherry's hand through this "review". Just goes to show folks, SXSW is NOT about how good the film is is, its about who knows who.


"…it is difficult to concentrate on multiple subplots. I've seen multiple films where interweaving subplots are handled with ingenious storytelling and direction…"

@Anthony: Just because other filmmakers were able to handle multiple subplots well doesn't mean it wasn't difficult for them to do. Obviously they had the experience and skill to pull it off. Cherry does not(at this time).


Wow @ some of the comments.

I haven't seen the film but I would have to agree with a few of the commenters who said this "review" is tepid at best. I would go as far as to say that this isn't really a review but more of a synopsis. It's quite obvious that S & A doesn't want to say what they really think because it might not be favorable.

As for the director(Cherry), this is his first foray into the feature film world. Some director's first films are pitch perfect. Some are not. Obviously he falls into the latter category. But hopefully, he'll take whatever honest feedback he receives and use it to become better.

I'm not going to write him off after his first film.


For anyone remotely concerned, I am not making those comments (5 of them). Some fake Bizarro Man is using my handle. I am signing off this post so if he or she continues be forewarned that it's not me.


please, let's not make this a forum to spew negativity and anger towards one another; it's counterproductive. let's focus on the films.



@CareyCarey, so you counter the so called "negativity" with the most negative and vile comment regarding this article yet. You've got some nerve! We, the readers, have the right to express our opinions however we see fit. No one was being the least bit disrespectful (which is more than I can say for you) if that were the case then maybe I could understand your misplaced outrage. Save your keystrokes because no one is interested in reading anymore of your drivel and borderline pseudo psycho analytical nonsense. Do you think anyone ever reads that crap in its entirety? Really? I've been meaning to say this for quite some time but GET A LIFE!! You're starting to sound like that old man in the nursing home that that talks to the wall because no one else is listening.

P.S. Matthew Perry was on Friends. He did not direct The Last Fall. Get it together.


The movie sucked.


Blow it out your ASS! That what I said, blow it out of your weak simplelton ass. Now, in defence of Vanessa Marinez and the S & A staff, I believe the negative comments directed at this review and the review, are weak, disrespectful and immature. First, Tambay does not and never has reviewed every film that appears on this blog. It has always been a community effort. Consequently, calling this reviewer a "minion" (in a demeaning way) is immature and very narrow minded. Listen, as I was reading the oddly similar comments and nom de plumes, I couldn't help but come to the conclusion that some of them are coming from the same person? And, that person obviously has a bone to pick with Matthew Perry. Who but someone with jealousy, envy and vengence in their heart would write a childish comment like this—> "I heard the film is bad from trusted sources. I also know the director is a hot mess who jeopardized a lot with his immature, egotistical decision making. I'll be surprised if anyone trusts him to make another film". Now kiss my ass, what kind of sh*t is that? What… egotistical decision making? He's the freakin' diector. Look, the whole flavor of that comment reeked of school yard gossip…> "don't play with her because I don't like her. I heard she's bad". And look at this mess from an admitted less-than freshman filmmaker —> "I think the readers deserve to hear the real with a much more thoughtful review. I'm talking where the film soared and where there were misses, anything less is a lie". EXCUSES ME, a lie? If the naysay readers were not on something, they would have read exactly what I read – here —> "There are references to this conflict, but there’s simply not enough time to reconcile all these different relationship dynamics. This can ultimately leave the impression of the film being unfocused" and "Since their relationship [ Faith & Kyle] are the forefront of the film, I wish story focused on what caused the disintegration of their relationship the first time around" and "Although the film falters from being unfocused due to multiple subplots". Now SHEBABABY, Me/Us CONFUSED, Tyrone, Lonnie AND THE BOYS, I don't know what the Cosby kids were looking for, but you can miss us with that freshman bullsh*t! ~ Daint Afraid To Say It Right. I gotta get that ass were they do their dirt ~ CareyCarey


I agree with the others that have said that this review sounds extremely biased. It sounds very much like you're trying to dance around the truth here and you should know that the Shadow and Act readers would see through this rather tepid "review." As artists we want to grow and be strengthened in our respective craft, there can be no growth without honest and constructive feedback. Please refrain from insulting our collective intelligence with your borderline insulting transparency.


I agree with Anthony and Lonnie, this review is weak. I understand that this site has to feel some kind of way about reviewing a film that they've gotten behind for over a year now but after seeing it on this site for a year now, kickstarter campaigns, etc. I think the readers deserve to hear the real with a much more thoughtful review. I'm talking where the film soared and where there were misses, anything less is a lie. Every freshman filmmaker, myself included, is going to have good things and bad things with their first film and for you guys to just kind of gloss over it feels unauthentic. Also, the fact that Tambay didn't review this film is telling. I totally understand not wanting to bash the film and supporting a brotha but I really think it's more beneficial to all involved to give a real review of the film, good or bad. Walking the line like this reviewer did doesn't create any excitement for the film, it just leaves me/us confused.


Saw this at SXSW on Friday. Extremely melodramatic, slow, and underwhelming. A complete waste of Beharie's talents that were on display in McQueen's "Shame". After numerous diaries and featured posts, it's quite telling that Tambay would bow out of reviewing this film, leaving this unfortunate write-up by one of his minions. Film bloggers cannot afford to get in bed with filmmakers. It's an obvious conflict and interest and it makes it incredibly difficult to give honest feedback/reviews. Yes, I'm only one person, but the general consensus was that this film was mediocre and had no place at a festival of this caliber. People were baffled upon exiting the screening. This review is tepid and shows a clear bias between this site and the filmmaker.


I agree w/ANTHONY & LONNIE. This review doesn't feel genuine. We understand you people are big supporters but this here can't be taken seriously. I want the truth. I heard the film is bad from trusted sources. I also know the director is a hot mess who jeopardized a lot with his immature, egotistical decision making. I'll be surprised if anyone trusts him to make another film.


You guys have profiled Matthew Cherry for over a year. Somehow, this review doesn't seem that honest to me. Not really thorough. The opinion is vague but the detailing of the actual content of the story is very descriptive. The tweets I saw from SXSW weren't very positive.


Weak review


Looking forward to seeing it! I already got my tix for when it screens at Atlanta Film Festival March 25th. Can't wait. I'm so proud of everyone involved, especially my Bison bros Lance and Mike!

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