TIFF Movie Review: Last Night (2010)

Guillaume Canet and Keira Knightley in Last Night
Photo: Miramax

Massy Tadjedin’s (2005’s The Jacket screenwriter) feature directorial debut Last Night is a stunning tale of fidelity and marital trust. Tadjedin seduces both her characters and the audience to the point she has you in the palm of her hand. To assume you know how the relationships in this story will play out means you are underestimating her script as she teases and keeps you on edge up and beyond the film’s last breath.

Starring Sam Worthington (Avatar) and Keira Knightly as Michael and Joanna Reed, the film opens with the two at a party thrown by one of Michael’s business associates. It is here Joanna witnesses a conversation between Michael and his beautiful colleague Laura played by Eva Mendes. Making assumptions based on body language and how attractive Laura is, Joanna jumps to conclusions causing the two to get in an argument later that night. Trouble is, the next day Michael is heading to Philadelphia with Laura for a two-day business trip, and his attraction to her now seems to be heightened. Perhaps it would have happened regardless, but the discussion he had with his wife certainly didn’t help matters.

On the flip side of the coin, with Michael out of town, Joanna heads to a local New York cafe where she runs into an old flame, Alex, played by the handsome French thespian Guillaume Canet (Tell No One). Only in town for another 24 hours, he invites her to dinner and the story of both Joanna and Michael’s temptation plays out before our eyes. A story where every touch and/or slip of the tongue plays a huge factor in the narrative’s trajectory.

Knightley, Worthington, Canet and Mendes are all excellent in this film. Some more than others. Knightley proves she isn’t simply best fit for period pieces as she fits into her role here as Joanna better than any other modern film she’s had in her career. She bounces from one emotional high to the next with ease; at first overreacting to a knee-jerk opinion, to asking for forgiveness for her actions and finally her questionable lust for a former lover. Worthington’s work is slightly closer to par as his actions are a bit less subtle, but then again when a man is attracted to a woman is he ever all that subtle?

Canet and Mendes are superb as the film’s two seducers. Both are appropriately self-serving and, as is probably the case in real life, the man is far more blunt in his approach verbally while the woman uses her feminine wilds in an effort to get what she wants. It’s all so well done I almost wouldn’t recommend couples with fidelity and/or trust issues to give it a watch because every aspect of infidelity is touched upon. Tadjedin leaves no stone unturned.

Ask yourself, if your partner kissed another man/woman but that was as far as it went how would you react? Have you ever been tempted to cheat? Have you been accused of doing so when it wasn’t true? Have you been the accuser? That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Last Night deals with very real questions that I’m sure have, at one point or another, concerned most every couple, married or otherwise. And while some moments are a bit contrived to get the story to the point Tadjedin wants it to reach, once the story gets there you are immediately thrust back into the film’s narrative.

This is a fantastic film that will have audiences talking once they leave the theater, not only for the nature of the film, but in the way in which it is made. Tadjedin has crafted a beautiful film and damn near created a romantic thriller out of a talky film about fidelity. No, I’m not talking about slit throats and bloodshed, but that doesn’t mean the film’s subject matter hurts any less. Brilliant if you ask me.

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