Jessica Ploumis reviews “Last Night” (2010), by Massy Tadjedin. In the traditional, archetypal sense, there are good guys and bad guys, Good vs. Evil; a story comprised of heroes, villains, and fair damsels. This is the recipe (for the most part) that has been fed to us in the movies. But what about real life?
Jessica Ploumis Reviews “Last Night”
Directed by: Massy Tadjedin, Written by: Massy Tadjedin
In our own lives do we classify ourselves as the “good guy” in our, personal life story? Is our b___-busting boss the villain and your wife the fair damsel? Truth is life isn’t like that, because we as real people do not fit into traditional archetypes. After all, the makeup of a person is comprised of both “good and bad”. But we don’t see that because we are always straddling the fence, torn between between selfish and selfless. As far as marriages or relationships go are cheaters bad guys? Or is just thinking about cheating bad enough? Are you a good person until the moment you act on wanting to cheat?
If you feel guilty about wanting to cheat, does that mean you are a good person (even though a weak one)? Is it “bad” to search for something new when you are unhappy? What would you do when tempted by love and/or by lust? And does your decision define what kind of person you are? Aren’t we all the same?
These are all the questions explored in Last Night.
Last Night breaks down the duality of individuals– just us regular, everyday people with everyday motivations. The movie starts with couple Michael (Sam Worthington) and Joanna (Keira Knightley) on their way to a celebration that is related to Michael’s work. Joanna notices that Michael is a little off; short tempered and nervous. When they get to the party, Joanna and Michael split up to greet friends. From across the room, Joanna sees Michael standing on the balcony with another woman, the beautiful Laura (Eva Mendes).
Ploumis reviews Last Night
Yes this in itself really isn’t a big deal – just two work colleagues talking. Yet we get that sense, the same sense that Joanna gets.
There is a moment in relationships when you have no proof or logic, but you just know something isn’t right. It’s hard enough to explain this moment – but it takes no time at all to recognize it on film. It is a complicated emotion, and one that is handled VERY well by director Massy Tadjedin. Specifically, there is a brilliant scene where Joanna asks Michael to get her another glass of wine. As she watches him approach the bar she sees Laura, also in search of another glass of wine, standing right behind him. When Michael is given his glass (for Joanna) in slow motion from Joanna’s POV we see Michael give his glass to Laura.
This was all captured brilliantly by Ms. Tadjedin. I love the way this seemingly insignificant moment was capitalized on and made important with the use of slow motion. Because that is how it really happens. When we have those quick moments that upset us they do feel as if they are happening in slow motion.
Oh…and did I mention… Michael has to leave for a business trip in the morning . . . with Laura?
When the couple gets home Joanna confronts Michael about his feelings for Laura – which he completely denies. After going at it and sleeping in separate rooms, the two decide it’s useless to fight right before Michael has to leave. The next morning Joanna tries to pass the time as peacefully as possible and ends up running out for a coffee. While out she runs into Alex (Guillaume Canet), her heartthrob ex who asks to have dinner with her. He is only in town for the night, and Joanna happily agrees.
Laura seduces Michael
At this point things heat up, as we watch Joanna excitedly get ready for her dinner while being treated to a peek immediately afterwards of Michael flirting and being seduced by Laura after their client meeting. Joanna and Alex go from drinks to dinner to a party where they have a great time filled with laughter and shared memories. They do their best to ignore the elephant in the room – namely, the wedding ring on Joanna’s finger. Meanwhile, Michael and Laura have drinks and decide to take a cozy little late night swim in the hotel pool
The crisis is clear
At this point it is clear that the gauntlet has been dropped and that Joanna and Michael can either give in and cheat on each other or stay faithful to their wedding vows. Does this mean, then, that Michael and Joanna have no ground to be mad at one another?
Most of us, as mere spectators, might agree that the right decision would be the moral one. Then why is the audience guided to a point where they may easily sympathize with – if not root for – these hookups throughout the movie? Is it because we see ourselves in these characters? Judging the characters’ behavior as wrong or not is very much a question of the experience an audience member brings to the movie. I have had engaging debates with colleagues about this movie – all of whom had completely different answers as to which character, if any, was in the wrong.
It is interesting that everyone was heated and defensive when explaining their position. And why shouldn’t they be, especially since the person/people they were really defending was themselves. So please check out this very simple and wonderfully executed film, and while you’re at it why not enjoy looking into a mirror. What’s special about this film is that you won’t find any heroes here – just you, me and everyone else!