Review of Last Swim – A-Level Results Day for a London High School Graduate

Review of Last Swim – A-Level Results Day for a London High School Graduate


Asha Nathwani, originally from the UK, is a director known for his successful short films. He is of Iranian and Indian descent and is now making his first feature film. The movie will be shown in the Generation section at the Berlin Film Festival and it is a charming, sincere and well-acted film. It may come across as overly sentimental at times, but it is balanced by clever humor and a cleverly self-aware ending featuring the main actor’s face.

The Last Swim follows the journey of Ziba, portrayed by Deba Hakmat, a teenager of Iranian-British descent who has successfully completed her A-levels and has been accepted into University College London to study astrophysics. Despite facing some condescending behavior from her interviewer, who questions if anyone else in her family has pursued this field, Ziba remains determined. She has made elaborate plans with her friends from 6th form, including Tara (Lydia Fleming), Shea (Solly McLeod), and Merf (Jay Lycurgo), to celebrate their results on the designated day.

The beginning of the film hints at Ziba’s struggles with ADHD and substance abuse. However, the reality is even more complex and the concept of it being her first day as an adult becomes increasingly difficult. Adding to the complication is the unexpected presence of Malcolm, a fellow student from their school who is now part of a professional football club’s youth training program. Despite jokes about his potential wealth, Malcolm seems to take it in stride. However, Ziba witnesses a humiliating moment for him and a vulnerable moment with his mother. The film reveals a strong connection between Ziba and Malcolm, one that surpasses her relationships with her long-time friends. This bond is evolving into something deeper, possibly fueled by their shared understanding that the future is uncertain.

Nathwani is invigorated by the youthful and lively energy of his cast as they traverse all over the city of London. They start off in Shea’s uncool 80s car, then switch to bikes and eventually take a train. Their journey takes them to Portobello where they grab sandwiches from a shop that Ziba has deemed the best in the city. They then make their way to Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill. Just as the movie seems to be following typical coming-of-age tropes, a shocking event occurs, leaving us unsure of how to interpret it. This serves as a reminder that real life can be unpredictable and chaotic, just like the characters in the film. While Last Swim may come across as inexperienced at times, it is straightforward and endearing, with Hakmat delivering a delicate and intelligent performance.