Last Night DVD Review

How would you live today if you knew it were your last?

This is an underlying theme all the characters in Massy Tadjedin’s oft delightful film Last Night face, as well as a philosophy my own life appears to be inexorably moving towards.

Last Night begins with successful developer Michael Reed and his wife Joanna rushing around their plush New York apartment before heading to a work function of his. The seemingly happy couple navigate the evening rather serenely, until Joanna meets Laura that is; a new colleague of Michael’s who he’s suspiciously failed to mention before tonight.

Which would probably be fine, if she didn’t look like Eva Mendes.

Sadly for Joanna, played by gorgeous boy Keira Knightley, Laura looks so much like Mendes they even cast her in this role.

Michael’s omission inevitably leads to a night of tension and arguments between the no longer happy couple, as he is scheduled to fly out with Laura on a work trip tomorrow.

Rather than wondering how close her husband is getting to his stunning colleague, Joanna focuses on her own writing work; until an old flame, Alex, unexpectedly tracks her down.

As things heat up between these new pairings, both Michael and Joanna’s vows of fidelity and reasons for being with each other are put to the test.

Written and directed by Massy Tadjedin, Last Night is a keenly observed musing on the distinction between love, relationships and the huge swathes of grey space that lies in-between.

With taut and realistic dialogue throughout, it’s obvious the subject matter of Last Night is close to Tadjedin’s heart. The subtle insights and sharp wit expressed on the differences of being with someone you like, instead of someone on your wavelength, are simply too real to have been borne from anything other personal experience.

In particular, the scenes between Joanna and her previous beau Alex, effortlessly portrayed by Guillame Canet, are expertly crafted. The chemistry these two actors have with each other draws you wholly into their story, only easing off occasionally so your mind can drift away to memories of that special person from your own past that got you the first time you met.

By comparison, Michael’s parallel journey through Last Night suffers markedly.

Played by a lumbering, knuckle dragging and two dimensional Sam Worthington; Michael’s character never comes close to engaging the audience in either his own story or in making us empathise with how he feels as he brazenly pursues another woman.

Whether this was a deliberate plot device or not is difficult to say.

It’s entirely possible Worthington’s neanderthal role was deliberately constructed as such, positioning the audience to identify with the alternative storyline and root for that dynamic.

In which case, Worthington is a bonafide, method acting genius.

A situation I sincerely doubt.

More likely, Joanna’s narrative arc reflects Tadjedin’s own life experiences whereas Michael’s story and personality were created through artistic licence. And it’s always trickier to realise a fully formed character outside your own experiences with the same level of conviction of those who do.

Then again, it could just be a reflection of the actors’ respective talents.

To my surprise, Knightley proves she’s more than just a pouting, posh girl with a persuasive depiction of Joanna; while Eva Mendes does her best to flesh out the two dimensional character she’s been handed.

Still, as far as modern cinematic actresses go, there aren’t many more qualified to do this than the voluptuous Mendes.

But it’s Guillame Canet, as the suave and sophisticated Alex, who really lights up Last Night. As soon as he enters the storyline, the energy of the film cranks up a notch or two as the palpable chemistry between his character and Knightley’s simply demands your attention.

Ultimately, Last Night is a soliloquy to the difference between love and a loving relationship that functions.

If we’re lucky, we get to understand the distinction between the two for ourselves.

And if we don’t, we still face those moments where we have to choose between one or the other, even if it’s only an idea of what something should be.

What Last Night does is let the audience decide for themselves what journey the protagonists embark upon.

I just hope people are brave enough to choose for their own life what they’d want for a fictitious character.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

October 2011