Friday 24 November 2017

Movies: Last night ***


Paul Whitington

In the opening scenes of screenwriter Massy Tadjedin's directorial debut Last Night, we are presented with an apparently happy and prosperous New York married couple.

But all is not as perfect as it seems for Joanna (Keira Knightley) and Michael (Sam Worthington) and when they go to a party thrown by a colleague of Michael's, the cracks in their relationship emerge.

While Joanna circulates, Michael spends most of the night talking to spectacularly beautiful co-worker Laura (Eva Mendes). He is clearly attracted to her, and Joanna is rattled. The couple fight about Laura when they get home, and are scarcely reconciled when he takes off for Philadelphia on a business trip the following morning -- with Laura.

With Michael gone, Joanna tries to stop worrying. But while out having a coffee she's confronted with a temptation of her own in the shape of Alex (Guillaume Canet) an old flame from Paris. Alex is in New York on business and persuades Joanna to join him for dinner, and as the evening progresses it becomes clear they're still in love.

Thereafter, Last Night flits between the unfolding scenarios in New York and Philadelphia, as two couples who shouldn't be together wrestle with the power of attraction and forbidden love. Tadjedin handles all this with reasonable skill, shooting her blindingly handsome cast in flattering low light and teasing out their problems without descending to pat psychology or cliche. She also keeps the titillating will-they-won't-they tension going right until the end.

However, the film's a bit cold overall, its characters hastily sketched. Keira Knightley is hard to warm to whatever the role: here she destabilises a story that might have been better balanced had Joanna been more sympathetic. Mendes does what she does most commendably, and Canet is a fine and subtle actor, but Worthington, in a rare non-action role, seems a little lost. The gaps in the script require him to communicate emotions with his face, but mostly he just looks stunned -- and faced with Mendes, who could blame him.

Day & Night

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