The Last Time I Saw Richard is a not-quite-short-short-film from Australian director Nicholas Verso (Boys in the Trees). It’s a tale of loneliness and finding comfort in someone new, all while battling literal monsters.
Jonah is a young boy spending time at a mental health clinic. He’s a loner, though no one seems to be worth making friends with. He keeps a razor in shoe (like Leroy), in which he uses to cut himself.
But one day, Jonah gets a new roommate – Richard. The two couldn’t be more different. Jonah instigates trouble with everyone while Richard is quiet. The new boy spends most of his time watching people or drawing.
Jonah goes to his appointment with his psychologist. He explains the reoccurring dreams he has; he walks down a path through a woods while being watched by a group of people hiding in the trees. He understands that in his dream he needs to find someone in order to be safe.
On their first night in together, Jonah awakes from a dream to a strange sound. The sound, like snoring, gives him enough ammo to taunt Richard about it the next day. Clearly a boy not interested in making any friends.
Richard has his own chance to get back at Jonah when he catches his roommate about to cut himself. Richard hands him a razor and walks away.
Jonah then sneaks into their room in order to look through Richard’s sketches, something that he wasn’t meant to touch. The sketchbook is filled with nightmarish scenes that reflect the reoccurring the dreams that Jonah experiences. When Richard catches Jonah, he throws him against a wall and begins to choke him.
But it’s all okay, kids. Because they begin to become friends after this. They even share a love of basketball!
One night, things take a strange turn again. Richard explains that the creatures in his sketches appear when he falls asleep. He admits that he doesn’t take his medication for fear of falling asleep. Jonah tells his roommate to sleep, as he stays up to look for the monsters himself.
After dozing off for a moment, Jonah awakes to hear the strange sounds again. He sees a shadowy figure hovering over Richard. Without a light, Jonah panics and throws the basketball at the figure, which immediately bursts into smoke.
On a following night, their last night together, Jonah sees three figures on Richard. While Jonah is able to fend the monsters off, he’s cut in the process. He climbs into bed to protect Richard, and the two fall asleep.
The next morning, a nurse walks in on Richard and Jonah in bed. Shocked, she immediately leaves the room. Jonah laughs it off, but the damage is seemingly done.
Jonah is called to an appointment with his psychologist, who tells him it is time for Jonah to leave. The boy believes it’s because of his closeness with Richard, but has no other choice but to leave.
In the “real world,” Jonah struggles to adjust. But he refuses to kill himself. Unbeknownst to him, Richard is sitting alone in the clinic, slowly becoming unresponsive. While he watches television, the monsters feed on his soul.
The Last Time I Saw Richard, yes, has monsters, but it’s about children and their relationship with mental illness. The “monsters” are the things that will literally eat away at them, whether it be the medication or their ‘support’. In some ways, this a potentially harmful message. But there is redemption: ultimately we find healing in ourselves and others.
While clocking in under a half hour, this little film is quite a stunner. It looks amazing, the acting is way above typical short-film standards, and it’s a story with a lot of body to it (I do love a movie with room for interpretations). For spending so little time with these boys, they certainly left an impression.