In Review: Last Night (DVD)

By Maryann O’Connor

This is not an unfamiliar story. Not because it’s been told many times but because we’ve all experienced it at one time or another. Last Night tells the story of a couple who spend the night apart and find themselves alone with attractive people who they don’t share every mundane detail of their lives with.

Last Night begins with a party and an argument; Joanna (Keira Knightley) sees her husband Michael (Sam Worthington) out on the balcony, completely engrossed in a conversation with his pretty colleague Laura (Eva Mendes). Joanna hasn’t heard much about Laura before tonight and is troubled so Michael and Joanna travel home in silence to have a familiar argument about what Michael’s motives were in withholding certain pieces of information. They make up (I’m sorry, no I’m sorry…blah,blah, blah)but then the next morning Michael leaves for an overnight business trip, once more in the company of Laura. Joanna, on an inconsequential trip to the local cafe, bumps into her old boyfriend Alex (Guillaume Canet) who is in New York for just one day.

There the scene is set for the next 24 hours as we follow Michael and Joanna, separately, through attacks of conscience, soul searching and some heavily rose-tinted glasses.

Writer and Director Massy Tadjedin made her directorial debut (after writing The Jacket and Leo) with this intelligent and non-judgmental look at relationships. It’s true that our past doesn’t go away if we choose to commit to someone and neither does our future, or other people. It is inevitable that some regret will choose to surface or the appearance of someone fresh and new will catch our attention. Last Night deals with these issues in such a way that you will find it impossible not to study your thoughts and actions in relation to those you love. When Joanna finally pours her heart out to Alex, you realise that Michael is not the only one keeping secrets and as viewers we are asked to re-evaluate our definitions of being unfaithful.

Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington give convincing performances as the uncertain couple, as do Eva Mendes and Guillaume Canet as the hard-to-read Laura and impassioned Frenchman Alex.  The lack of fingerpointing and identification of a ‘bad guy’ is very refreshing so you get to decide who deserves your condemnation all on your lonesome.You also find yourself wondering along with Alex and Joanna about why their relationship didn’t last, which is partly testament to the excellent onscreen chemistry between Knightley and Canet. The short timescale is a big asset to the film, creating a tension that many films of this ilk do not possess.

Having said that, it does feel much later on in the evening by the time we reach the business end of proceedings:  you know that it’s crunch time for Michael and Joanna but the conclusion of their two individual stories seems to be postponed a little too long. Aside from that blip I really could not find fault and so look forward to further offerings from Massy Tadjedin.

Maryann has awarded Last Night four Torches of Truth

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2 responses to “In Review: Last Night (DVD)

  1. Well, judging from what Maryann has written, this film turned out to have been going in a different direction, and from a completely different starting-point, from what I guessed at from the title and image – never judge a film just by its poster (let alone trailer), one might say!

    I had thought that it might conceivably be the unimaginable straight version of the story of Weekend: X, a bloke (or a woman) whose friends do not know that he (she) is in the habit of picking up girls (or boys) for one-night stands, escapes from them to do so one Friday night. (Let’s say, for interest’s sake, that, X is a fundamentalist Christian, Jew or Muslim.)

    Played out as Weekend does, but with a sexual life of this kind (rather than one of closet gay sex) that could be come out about, would the film have the remotest interest? I’m not sure – obviously, with just straight sexuality, there is no conflict, no hidden world from X’s public persona, but do we end up having to make it something such as religious fundamentalism to get it to work? Could the story work otherwise?

    Find these counterfactual postulates irritating if you like, as did Paddy Considine when I suggested in the Q&A at Cambridge Film Festival that his Tyrannosaur would have evaded the stereotype of the aggressive man, if he had had Joseph as Josephine (whether or not played by Olivia Colman) to show that there are, actually, agressive women, but I believe that they may help – they help me – to know what I’m responding to in a screenplay (and how it has been shot and edited)…

  2. Although the script is interesting and the ending is very good, I found many faults with this film. For example, the dialogue between main characters is hardly audible and is not ‘polished’, the reaction of actors to other characters’ lines is too fast. I also thought Worthington did a poor job in this film. Though I agree with you that the chemistry between Knightley and Canet is great, there is virtually no chemistry between Worthington and Knigthley, and this is a shame. The ending would have been more ‘dramatic’ if they had some. Joanne and Michael appear more like brother and sister or just friends. It is VERY hard to believe they met and dated at college before their wedding.

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