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Mr Morgan’s Last Love

May 21, 2015

Mr Morgan’s Last Love (2013)
Director: Sandra Nettelbeck
Actors: Michael Caine, Clémence Poésy, Justin Kirk

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Synopsis: Mr Morgan (Michael Caine) is a retired university professor living out his days in a stately Paris apartment and gently grieving the death of his wife. Morgan develops a rapport with young French dance instructor, Pauline (Clémence Poésy), who herself is lonely and misses her late father. After Morgan unsuccessfully attempts suicide, his two grown-up children fly in from the US and try to unpick their father’s unusual relationship with Pauline.

Review: Almost universally dismissed as a piece of sentimental old pap, I’m inclined to be a touch more sympathetic to Sandra Nettlebeck’s ode to bereavement and late-life friendship, Mr Morgan’s Last Love, although even I can’t excuse some of the bizarre decision-making in the narrative construct (location, nationality of characters, various plot developments) that dissipates a lot of the otherwise sensible storytelling.

Why for example cast a famous British actor – notorious for being unable to obscure his distinctive London accent – and saddle him with a pointless American accent/nationality, and then place him randomly and tenuously in Paris of all cities, to play out this otherwise humane and deft tale of loss and the reconciliation of mortality in old age? The use of Paris seems a particularly lame attempt to fast-track some pathos and twee romanticism into the mix, and it completely jars with the sometime deep and earnest politicking on grief and family politics. Although the trajectory of Mr Morgan’s septuagenarian dilemmas is actually quite well plotted (and how refreshing and radical to find a mainstream film that actually finds some level of nobility in a form of – huge spoiler alert – moral suicide), the young French woman that dotes on him is little more than a cipher. We know the narrative needs her to be this plot-tool of a late life catalyst for Mr Morgan, but the film never really justifies her motivations in being quite so keen to tag along with him every step of the way (bar the minor suggestion that as she’s lost her own father, she might in some way ‘associate’ with Morgan). Also, Hans Zimmer’s cloying piano score doesn’t help the film move away from the sentimental and into the more cerebral territory of its subject matter. (May 2015)

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