Temptation and fidelity: Two forces battling against each other continuously throughout the early years of a young couple’s marriage. For the first year or two, fidelity rules the roost but as the wedding anniversaries mount, temptation begins to chip away at this solid foundation. When opportunity is added to the equation, one’s character is tested even more.
Joanna and Michael (Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington) have been married for three years, and have been together for seven — and we all know what happens to a relationship after seven years. The itch, previously dormant, surfaces. The couple is happy together in New York — she’s English, he’s Australian, and both have adapted well with their homey but chic apartment and middle-class lifestyle — but Joanna sees something she doesn’t like when accompanying her husband to a business function. Whilst she’s mingling with the assorted suited, open-necked shirt brigade, her husband is out on the balcony spending altogether too much time with Laura (Eva Mendes who, in all honesty, looks the man-eater type at the best of times. Here, her mouth suggests Venus Fly Trap, at best).
Joanna’s mood is not helped by the revelation that Michael has to leave town tomorrow for a business trip to Philadelphia with, amongst others, Laura. While moping around, wondering whether she’s over-reacted, she bumps into old flame Alex (Guillaume Canet), all Gallic charm with soft, gentle eyes, who is only in town for one day. As Michael’s away, she reasons, what’s the harm in spending some time with an old friend? Plenty, is the answer, and she knows it full well but agrees anyway.
At this point Last Night basically splits into two; Michael’s night with Laura, and Joanna’s with Alex. Parallels between the nocturnal trysts are compared throughout, as the movie cuts between Philadelphian hotels and New York chic. Laura is quite open about her intentions — in truth, we could have guessed them the moment we first clapped eyes on her — and Alex, too, makes his feelings known, only in his case it’s love, not lust, on his mind. Both dates will go on through the night and into the next morning.
Written and directed by Massy Tadjedin, Last Night is an adult tale that smolders without ever sizzling. Tadjedin has no point to make, or at least none that I could gather, and instead just lays the events out on the table and asks us to discuss them later. There is an inevitability around the happenings of the night, and all four parties knew what they were doing as they primped and prepared for it. As such, it’s difficult to feel any great empathy for any of them. However, Tadjedin’s direction is classy and confident, which counter-balances the deficiencies the writing may have. Canet, for my money, is the pick of the performers here, but I was slightly deflated by the cast as a whole. In a wordy, play-based movie such as this, the opportunity was there for one of the young cast to command centre stage: Knightley, I’m afraid, is not that sort of performer here, despite having the most screen time in which to develop a character. Instead, she resorts to a great deal of mouth-twitching as a complement to her introspective conversational chit-chat.
Last Night nonetheless is worth a watch, especially if you’re a fan of wordy relationship movies such as Mike Nichols’ Closer, for example. I’m not sure what the future holds for Michael and Joanna — the movie cuts, deliciously, at a moment that might reveal all. Whatever it is, they’re certainly in the right city to discuss their issues and can afford the therapy that will no doubt benefit, so I’m quite confident that I’ll sleep easily tonight, next to my wife (of seven years, gulp!) as always.