Sunday, November 20, 2011

'Last Night' - a film by Massy Tadjedin

I've just watched this film - 'Last Night' starring Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Eva Mendes and Guillaume Canet.
If you have a chance, watch it, it's so good.
I'd seen the trailer a while back and it had intrigued me, but I hadn't been able to get hold of it on DVD to watch, so had pretty much forgotten it until I spotted it at the library earlier today.

---WARNING! THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!---

Storyline

Note - this is a pretty bad summary, ignore it and just go watch the film

The film is basically about temptation. It's focuses on a married couple, Michael and Joanna Reed (Worthington and Knightley). There's a section at the beginning in which there is not a whole lot said, but you get to know the two main characters a little. They go to a work party, where Jo spots Michael with an attractive new colleague, Laura (Mendes), who he's been working with for a while, has gone on a business trip with, and is going on another business trip with the next day. She sees them and believes them to be attracted to each other - when they go home later in the evening, she confronts him about it and he tries to tell her nothing has happened and smooth over this argument. There is a lovely scene where he wakes her up (she was sleeping on the couch as she still wasn't happy with him) and makes her some breakfast, and they talk a little. They later both go to sleep in their bed and seem on good terms when he leaves in the morning. Generally they seem to have a very good committed, married relationship.

Michael goes on his business trip and as the film progresses it cuts back and forth between him and Jo during this day/night that they are apart. Jo goes out for coffee and bumps into Alex (Canet), who she hasn't seen in 2 years, he's on his way to a meeting but they decide to meet later in the evening. It's clear that they both feel strongly about each other just from the expressions and short conversation. The film follows through the day as Michael's meetings wrap up and Jo gets ready to go out. Michael stays around to go for drinks with Laura and they chat about relationships and other things. Jo meets Alex, you can feel how comfortable they are together, how they really enjoy being with each other. Jo ends up going with Alex to a sort of work dinner/dinner with friend and his wife. There is some very interesting conversation between Jo and Patrick (Alex's friend) who is older, and is curious about Jo and the relationship with Alex, and they have a short but honest conversation about Jo, Alex and Michael. Michael spends his evening alone with Laura, first at a bar, then moving on to another place, and they end up going back to her room to grab some drinks from the minibar and head down to the pool where they start swimming in their underwear. They talk about cheating, and how Laura was cheated on and how she felt about it. Meanwhile Jo has gone off with Alex to feed/walk their friend Andy's dog (Andy is on the trip with Laura and Michael). They end up locked out of the apartment and take the dog with them to Patrick's party. After spending some time together they end up snogging in a lift and then heading back to his place. They sit and talk, seeming very much like a normal couple, then start getting close again but Jo says 'I can't ... I can't do any more and look him in the eye'. Alex comments that her husband is away with a woman that she got upset about, but she replies 'Michael isn't doing anything'. Instead, they lie down on the bed and just stay there through the night. Michael ends up sleeping with Laura and after getting up says 'I didn't think that would happen', she glibly replies 'not even the second time?'.

Michael finds the note Jo hid in his shirt for the next day, that says 'It's possible I overreacted. I know that. I know you. And I love you. xxx Jo'. Michael decides to go home to his wife rather than finish the business trip. Arriving back early he sees Jo's been crying. He lies to Jo and says 'we finished up early' when she enquires about the business trip. He apologises for the fight they had (at the beginning of the film), suggest they go out for lunch and a walk. They embrace when she gets up to go get ready and he tells her he loves her. Over her shoulder he spots her discarded high heels from the night before. They move apart and look at each other's faces, she takes a breath as if to say something and-

the film ends.

The effect on the viewer

Obviously by 'the viewer' I mean me, so it won't necessarily be the same for everyone. However, I found this a very captivating film. I felt like I really needed to know more, I needed to understand. There was a certain intriguing quality throughout the film because it wasn't all laid out for you at the beginning - you had to understand it as you went through.

I love the uncertainty of some things in the film. They are frustrating, but that's what makes them work so well!
The lack of closure leaves you feeling sort of unsatisfied but in a good way. I think it definitely had a 'real' sort of feel to it - there is no certain happy ending, life just goes on. I like that you don't get all this backstory in a block, you get to know the characters and understand their relationships with each other through their conversations or reminiscence in some cases; but I never felt like the story behind the relationships was forced in or made to fit because it was necessary for the audience to know it.

I love the fact that it is very much up to the viewer to decide what they're rooting for. I think different people would maybe want the characters to do different things. I found that I was rooting for them to stay faithful to each other, and not get involved with extra-marital relationships/affairs, but I also found myself torn with Knightley's character. She really shone in this role and you really feel the emotion and the connection between her and Canet's character. You find yourself wanting them to be together, but also feeling like it's wrong.

I thought that one of the most amazing things, which I suppose I find unusual in today's sort of culture, is that that the idea of the relationship/temptation was a lot more than just a physical thing. This was especially clear in the case of Jo and Alex. They clearly had this relationship that they just fell back into despite not seeing each other for 2 years. For them it was so much more than something physical, and when they parted, him going back to Paris, you really felt the emotion in their separation. It was so abundantly clear than their feelings for each other were deeply rooted, not something that would go away easily but instead something likely to hang around for the rest of their lives in one way or another.

In Michael's case it was more of a physical thing. I thought that the relationship between him and Laura was such a contrast to Jo and Alexs'. They confronted it clearly, aware that he was married, that he didn't want to have an affair but admitted feelings for Laura. He said clearly to her that he thought that he'd regret having an affair more than he would regret not having one. He clearly didn't make boundaries for himself in a way that would have helped him to stay faithful. Instead he mentally tried not to have an affair, while allowing himself to get closer and closer to it until it happened. I thought that some of the conversation between the two of them was very interesting - Laura's confession of being cheated on, and her feeling about it all etc. I liked that there was minimal screen time of them actually sleeping together - this film was a great contrast to the many others where it seems to be a bit of plot chucked in for the sake of a bunch of 'getting physical' or sex scenes.
I thought that how the 'morning after' sort of situation was shown was so brilliant. It felt very real and there was no closure. You could sort of see how Michael was feeling, but you could also see that he was a bit mixed up, but knew he had to leave it behind and go back to his wife. I think one of the best things was when Andy (the other guy on the business trip with them) told Laura that Michael had gone back to New York and she tried to sound normal about it but you could see the expression on her face. I described Michael as 'mixed up' but I think perhaps a better way of describing their expressions is 'empty'. I've never been in a situation like that so I can't imagine exactly what it would feel like, but I think that them feeling empty is perhaps one way to describe it. I don't think that 'guilty' would really describe Michael at that point, perhaps he was feeling it but it wasn't quite what was portrayed. It just seemed really genuine, I'm failing a bit at describing it - just watch the scenes, you'll get what I mean!

One of the things I found most interesting as a viewer of the film as a whole is that throughout the film I wasn't sure if either of them would cheat, and if one of them did who it would be. It also made me think about boundaries - what would 'count' as cheating? Is it kissing? Is it sex? Is it something else? Is emotional cheating less, more or the same as physical cheating?
I think the idea of secrets is very important. If it's something you wouldn't want to tell your husband/wife then you probably need to consider the idea that it's cheating.

My comments on how it has been made

Something I would definitely say of this film is that it is a film of few words. So much is said through the moments where no one is speaking. I find that so amazing. The film is simply beautiful.

One thing I found very interesting about how it has been edited is that it's not always 100% chronological. At the beginning it switches between the evening events (them getting ready, being at the party) and shots of them each in their taxi on the way home. It's been cut so well that it doesn't feel disjointed at all - it just adds the emotion and understanding of the characters and the film. Also the same technique was used throughout the film in shorter time span moments - e.g. when Michael and Laura are in the pool and talking, towards the end it swaps between a shot of her getting out of the pool, back to them talking in the pool, and then back to them after getting out.

Also, sometimes a tiny clip is used repeated, or there is a purposeful lack of continuity - for example a couple with their heads close together, move apart, then switch to a clip where they're together again and move apart. Somehow it really fits.

The decision to cut the end like they did, at a moment where you really wanted to know what she would say, and you didn't quite expect it to be cut like that - was perfect.

I don't really remember the background music, when I actually try to think about it I can't come up with anything. Perhaps that proves that the background music was good! It didn't distract, it just worked. I'm sure I would have noticed if there actually wasn't any, so it must have just been very well suited and blended into the film.
*goes to flick through and listen again*
Yeah, it's very minimal. There are large chunks that seem to be just dialogue or silence, no background music - that definitely adds to the 'real' feel of the film. The music that is there is mainly quite simple, but beautiful piano music, and in some sections there's a bit more of a beat and some other instruments thrown in. It definitely works amazingly with the film - perfect.

There's only one moment I particularly remember there being dialogue where it wasn't the characters on screen that were talking - it's Jo talking about Michael, and there are some shots of Michael (I think this might happen a couple of times - when she's talking to Patrick, and later to Alex - about being faithful). I think that it works really well, it's odd how you notice little changes like that so much more when the film is quite minimal in it's approach.

The acting is, of course, vital to the whole thing. Acted amazingly by a fantastic cast. Keira Knightley shone out above the rest but all of them were really good, so wonderful at subtle acting that portrayed things without complication. Sam Worthington is one that I can't necessarily recall a lot of different expressions on his face, but he definitely managed to portray the subtle changes in mood/feelings very well. I think that Eva Mendes plays Laura so well, with sort of mixed feelings, unsure how things are going to go but pursuing what she wants.

Conclusion
I didn't really go into watching the film with particularly high expectations, I just thought it looked interesting, but it certainly majorly exceeded my expectations. It's very thought-provoking, beautifully shot and put together, so much more minimal and natural than most films I watch. I'm so glad I watched it, I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes films :).

1 comment:

Jesu Castelli Azpiroz said...

Your review was brilliant. I mean, I thought exactly the same thing.
First of all I considere the film is totally underrated...I LOVE the movie so much...
I love much more the Joana-Alex couple rather than the Michael-Laura one. As you said, the chemistry between Worthington and Mendes is pure physical...while what goes on betweet Knightley and Canet is much more deeper.
I wanted Joanna to end up with Alex, I mean, I think they are meant to be, and you can actually see that they really love each other (the way they look at each other, the way they touch or kiss is SO romantic)
Sorry, I know my english sucks :)
So, thanks for your review