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.