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Last Night

May 3, 2013

Last Night (2010)
Director: Massy Tadjedin
Actors: Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Guillaume Canet

Last Night

Synopsis: Young married couple, Joanna and Michael (Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington), have respective nights where their faithfulness is put to the test. In New York, Joanna bumps into her old French flame, Alex (Guillaume Canet), and in Philadelphia, Michael spends a night with work colleague, Laura (Eva Mendes).

Review: Last Night is a horribly gauche and indulgent relationship drama that suffers from a shoddy screenaply and inadequate direction. While the concept of a sophisticated, metropolitan marital angst piece is all well and good, writer-director Massy Tadjedin sadly gets so many of her decisions wrong in the execution of that story. First and foremost, the mechanical necessities of the narrative creak awkwardly and are far too transparent – the characters feel more like devices in service to a plot and set of ideas, than vice versa. We know that Tadjedin wants to place Joanna and Michael in the situation where they are forced to evaluate their marriage, but Joanna being so inordinately suspicious at the film’s unassuming opening has no real sense of believability as there is no context to what came before it.

The rest of the narrative plays out like this, hugely indulgent to these narcissistic characters’ relationship musings; musings which merely come across as dull and unilluminating – probably not helped by the fact that the world created around these people feels so flimsy. Are we really supposed to buy Keira Knightley as a talented novelist on the basis of her woes over her writing inadequacies? And quite why a supposedly artsy woman like that would ever be interested in Sam Worthington’s terse, corporate suit is never made clear.

Sadly, this film is not Keira Knightley’s finest hour. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan, and she has done some great work in recent period dramas like AtonementA Dangerous Method and Anna Karenina, but I don’t know if it’s because those movies’ classicism suits her distinctive features and demonstrative range, because here she’s woefully out of her depth, desperately trying to feel for naturalism and an inner-depth, but instead creating a self-conscious performance of extremely unconvincing affectations and tics.

Lastly, Tadjedin’s directorial tricks – presumably learned in film school – feel awfully contrived here. It’s the most shallow use I’ve ever seen of jump cuts (we get Joanna washing her dishes in the kitchen sink…to jump cuts – why? Because she’s agitated?) And even the conceits of overlapping dialogue and the visual and thematic mirroring of Joanna and Michael’s evening trysts miss the spot too. (May 2013)

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