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Michael J. Murphy
It's 18:00 in a somewhat deserted Toronto on the last day before the scheduled end of the world at midnight, the end which has been known now for months. Most people are treating midnight as a matter-of-fact event with little sense of panic. In fact, many are celebrating this last day. Most have very specific wants for this last day and will do whatever they need to to make those wants happen. And some, such as Duncan and Donna with the gas company, are working, ensuring that the masses are served and comfortable during the final hours. The Wheeler family are marking the last day by having a Christmas party, although sullen adult son Patrick, his thoughts in part stemming from being recently widowed, has made it clear he wants to be alone in his own home at the end. Patrick's wants may be in jeopardy when a woman named Sandra - Duncan's wife - lands on his doorstep. Sandra is stranded, trying to make it across town to her own home so that she and Duncan can carry out their own last ... Written by
In the early moments of the movie, when the car's up on it's bumper against the pole, the girl puts her keys in the door to unlock it and when the door opens, the bell goes off, to alert that the keys are in the ignition, or that the lights are on. Neither is true. See more »
The world is going to end at midnight; it's six pm now. The impending catastrophe has been known about for months but nothing can be done about it.
Government has been wound down. There's a certain amount of mayhem, looting, and bloodshed in the streets, but most of that ended weeks ago; now people are just quietly resigned. The nature of the disaster is never specified or even mentioned, but cleverly hinted at. Sooner or later you'll suddenly realise what it must be to do with, and when you do it's a breath-catching moment. Once you notice this, the closest thing the film has to a big special effect, it becomes increasingly appalling as time goes on.
There are to be no last-minute attempts to save the earth. They were known to be futile before the film begins. Instead, people calmly make preparations for their last night alive. It's a bit like wanting to do something special for your birthday. Craig (Callum Keith Rennie) is living out the four-letter answer most people would give if asked 'What would you do if the world was about to end' - as he has been, methodically and systematically, for the past few weeks. Sandra (Sandra Oh) is trying to get across the chaotic city to her beloved husband. Patrick (Don McKellar, who also wrote and directed, brilliantly) attends a last family meal and plans a quiet evening alone with a Pete Seeger record. Almost everyone else is heading downtown for the big end of the world party.
Flashes of black humour help make things bearable, but I can't convey how genuinely chilling and terribly moving the film becomes before the end. Pre-millennium there were a handful of end-of-the-world films, most based around big-budget special effects. For a grumpy misanthropist such as myself, who officially couldn't care if the world was to end, even a blockbuster disaster movie like Deep Impact was a salutary experience, making me realise that I really, really don't mean that, and that for all its travails and miseries life is precious. But by excluding special effects and scientific explanations, and precluding the possibility of averting the end, and focusing entirely on the human, Last Night is far, far better and left me drained and devastated.
I almost prefaced these remarks with a 'Don't watch this alone' but decided, nah, other people can be a pain when you're trying to watch a film. But if you watch it alone and late at night as I did, be warned that after the end you may feel a strong urge to make contact with one of those annoying other people, at 2 in the morning, a friend, a relative, your milkman, anyone.
But watch this you must, for it's a great cinematic work of art.
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