The Last Son is the European title of the movie Chappaquiddick. It was late at night in Chappaquiddick on July 18 1969, when Edward ‘Ted’ Kennedy left a party with a former aide of Bobby Kennedy, Mary Jo Kopechne. Ted was driving and their car drove off a small bridge in Chappaquiddick and fell into a pond. Ted got out of the car but Mary Jo Kopechne drowned.
How did this happen? Why did Ted not save her? Why did Ted not say anything about the accident to the authorities until the next day (only after the Oldsmobile was discovered in the pond)? Do not watch The Last Son if you are looking for answers. You won’t find any. We must rely on the (not very credible…) story of the only witness, Ted himself. Jason Clarke portrays Ted Kennedy as an egoistic and unpleasent man, repulsive even, who only cares about his own image and the repercussions the accident might have on his political career. I absolutely loved Ed Helms who plays Ted’s cousin and friend Joe Gargan.
The last son
Kennedy seems to struggle with the expectations of his dad, with being the last surviving Kennedy son, with feeling inferior to his brothers, with the whole Kennedy legacy. A quick reminder: Joe Jr. was killed during the war in an airplane explosion on August 12, 1944 (aged 29), John F. was shot and killed on November 22, 1963 (aged 46), Bobby was shot and killed on June 6 1968 (aged 42). Ted is portrayed as a weak character in the movie – stubborn too.
The Last Son is not a movie about the accident but about the reaction of Ted and the political cover-up that following the events. Dad Kennedy arranges for a large (legal and PR) team to ‘make the problem disappear’. The cold and heartless political decisions regarding the cover-up and damage control that are made by Ted and the team are chilling.
Mary Jo Kopechne (played by Kate Mara) is seen as a mere problem, not as a human being – just days after Ted Kennedy told her and some other former campaign staffers of Bobby’s that they are just like family. Anyway the whole damage control works out as voters keep him in Senate.
Holding on to the power
Still, let’s not forget it’s a movie. It is based on facts and the filmmakers absolutely tried to keep it close to the truth but many facts remain unknown so there was quite some room for interpretation. This is not a movie about what happened but about what might have happened. It doesn’t make the whole thing any less sad though. Because in the core, The Last Son talks about a problem that still exists: the power of PR and the power that some people have to erase crimes, to alter history or to avoid justice.
Don’t expect a thriller of some kind, The Last Son is a sober political drama, a bit slow at times. Very interesting though and well made so if it’s your kind of thing, you’ll enjoy the movie. I did.