7 June 2011

LAST NIGHT- Review

Last Night is a drama about fidelity and temptation, written and directed by the gloriously named Massy Tadjedin, and it just so happens to star Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington. These are actors best known for Pirates of the Caribbean and Clash of the Titans, respectively, so it's nice to see them in a quieter film that touches down amid the frenzied summer blockbuster release schedule.

They play Joanna and Michael, a married couple who've been together since college. The night after the two row about Michael being attracted to one of his co-workers, he goes off on a residential business trip to Philadelphia with said co-worker, while she stays at home. However, Joanna unexpectedly bumps into an old flame, Alex, and the two go out for a night out on the town. The couple's stories run parallel over the course of the night, as their love for one another is put to the test.

The film's greatest deficiency is in the balanced representation required to make the couple work as characters. It's been noted that Tadjedin wrote from her own experience, and insofar how much more screentime is lavished upon Joanna than on Michael, that much is clear. This deficiency is nothing to do with the female director empathising more with the female character, although it can be said that Michael, the man, is drawn in more simplistic strokes than his wife.

Sam Worthington, once given a chance to show off his acting chops, makes for an interesting presence in a film as dramatic as this one, but his character is never more interesting than in his scenes with Joanna, who's demonstrably the writer's favourite. Keira Knightley continues a solid run of good performances from Atonement to Never Let Me Go. She was also the best thing about the otherwise interminable London Boulevard, and Joanna benefits from the same vulnerability and simmering sexuality that Knightley brought to that role.

Joanna is swept off her feet in some ways by Guillaume Canet's Alex, but there's a consistent moral core to her actions, with even shades of longing and regret that keep her on the right side of our sympathies. By contrast, Michael is a considerably more naive character- then again, maybe he thought Eva Mendes' character invited him down to their hotel swimming pool, with lots of booze from the hotel minibar in hand, for a rollicking evening of good old-fashioned fidelity to Joanna? We don't see as much of his side of the story, and so he's sometimes quite unfairly underdeveloped.

On the other hand, Last Night makes for that rarest of things- a film with a realistic outlook on life, love and marriage. The film is one of modest means, despite its two big stars, and yet I struggle to think of a film this mainstream that so convincingly portrayed a real life romance. When the couple argue, the arguments feel valid, and you can empathise with either character. This, as opposed to the contrived second-act break-up rows that populate the usual "chick flick" fare. I can't even protest too much about how Canet is written as FRENCH, rather than French, the distinction being in his forwardness and penchant for flirtation.

Although the editing is occasionally slightly choppy, with the effect of landing somewhere quite far from whatever the desired result was meant to be, the concurrent storylines in Last Night make for a compelling drama. The film doesn't outstay its welcome, even in favouring Joanna's journey over Michael's, and the refreshing realism about the whole thing feels decidedly more honest that anything else currently going in mutliplexes. It's certainly not a date movie, but its musings upon insecurity and trust in relationships prove thought-provoking, and interesting to watch.

Last Night is now showing in select cinemas nationwide.
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If you've seen Last Night, why not share your comments below?

 I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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