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There are films that are great, but by virtue of their intelligence and understatement fall through the cracks - or go on over the years to achieve 'cult' status. Paul Auster's 'Smoke', or Thomas McCarthy's 'The Station Agent' are a couple. This is such a film, and for fans of these types of 'smarter', less 'hollywood' productions there is no greater cinematic experience than finding such a gem. This is unpretentious and real - and ultimately honest and rewarding. Don McKellar has crafted something really special.
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
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.
I have seen this film twice, and believe that it is certainly one of the
best films of 1998. One person brought that people wouldn't be violent on
the day when the world ends, but come together in a type of philosophical
togetherness. I was stunned by that idea, assuming that the cynicism that
permeates today's culture would have enforced that idea, that violence will
be around. The end of the world is a violent thought, as exemplified in
films such as Armageddon and Deep Impact (true, they were stupid
But that aside, Last Night is a powerful and very introspective look at
the lives of several people who's lives happen to be interwoven on the last
day of the world. It begs the question "what would you do with the final
six hours". Many have remarked on the tone, and I have to heap more praise
on the subtle irony that is found throughout the film. Why is the world
ending? The audience doesn't find out. Whether one's appreciation of the
film diminishes or grows for this ambitious step is purely personal. For a
ninety minute film, it's ambition in depicting six lives is interesting, and
it's only mistake. For the movie to do justice to all the characters, it
needed to be at least half an hour longer. But that singular flaw does not
negate the film's final achievement.
The entire cast is sensational, even if they're on for short periods of time. Rennie and Oh took home well deserved Genie awards for their brilliant performances, but I felt McKellar's performance was the most intriguing. He has a talent for not poignant drama, but scenes of almost deadpan-type comedy (where Sandra asks him the favour).
Don McKellar has got to be among the most versatile writers around. After writing Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, the fragmented biopic about the famous pianist, and The Red Violin, another slightly fragmented story told through and about a violin, he wrote, directed, and starred in Last Night, and apocalyptic dramedy (or an ironic tragicomedy), and he does it with supreme style. Last Night is a film not to be missed, but to be pondered over and savoured.
i never realized how beautiful a song Guantanamera was, until i heard it in this movie. Whenever i hum the tune nowadays, i can't help but think of Last Night(and the last scene). Ihighly recommend seeing Miracle Mile, after you've see Last Night. It is as close to an American version of this film as you are ever going to see. It is almost just as good. In my opinion, the best line in the movie comes when the old woman makes the very politially incorrect statement, that she tired of hearing about the children,because they are too young to miss anything. If the world weren't ending in a few minutes, you know she wouldn't be exposing her true feelings. I loved this film, beginning to end.
I found LAST NIGHT quite thought-provoking and moving the first time I saw it and its impact on me has only grown over time. This is an amazingly sophisticated and well-executed film for a first-time director. What I find thrilling about it is both the fine balance it finds between ideas and emotional resonance and its sense of tonal unity and control. The images and music have stayed with me for years. Despite the melancholic events of the story and the sense of loss that permeates the film (after all, we are talking about the end of the world here), a mordant sense of humour and finally a romantic, optimistic heart leavens the story's darkness, without pushing the movie into cheap sentimentality or melodrama (Armageddon, anyone?). All this and only one of the most memorable closing images in modern film! Seek it out. It's worth it.
Don Mckellar's direction is outstanding in this typically edgy yet slyly romantic Canadian offering. Taking place during the last night on earth, the film expertly follows the lives of a group of people all of whom are dealing with the end of the world in their own inimitable ways. Yes, this is not something original but somehow Mckellar (who also acts in the the film) has fashioned a very watchable tale whose power lies in what we know is going to happen rather than how we get there. With a touch of off-beat Canadian humor the mundane and the surreal are often counterpointed to provide some dark humor, but the film's visual wit and wonderful use of music adds another eerie dimension. Mckellar never tells why the earth is coming to an end but there are enough 'bright' clues to satisfy the curious. It's a shame this film hasn't had more exposure. Perhaps its detached, deadpan wit was too Canadian for many.
I saw LAST NIGHT last night at a special London preview where we all had to fill in a questionnaire. I don't know if this was just to formulate a marketing campaign or (more worrying) to consider making changes to the film. So just in case, let me say to the powers-that-be, DON'T CHANGE A THING! LAST NIGHT is wonderfully refreshing and intelligent. No cheap thrills or laughs. Nothing derivative or patronising to the audience. It has an integrity increasingly rare in modern cinema. Don't just 'forget Armageddon', it's misleading to even compare them. A sense of impeding doom is treated here like a collective state-of-mind rather than an externalised visual spectacle. It's elegantly spare in both look, writing and performances. Quietly thrilling, darkly humorous, poignant and haunting. Faultless on every level. Congratulations to McKellar, and the team for making the film you wanted to make, without the destructive influence of corporate interference!
Don McKellar directs/wrote/stars in one small movie that asks us...
what is REALLY important?
The world is about to end (how is irrelevant) and we follow a (seemingly) random bunch of people as they fill there last hours.
On one level they all want to make dreams/desires/fantasies they've held onto happen. Our main character, Patrick Wheeler is caught between fulfilling his parents plans and his own.
I don't want to give too much of this simple, beautiful and heartfelt movie away, but I think it boils down to a question of opening ourselves up - to be less alone - and to let love in. I think that one thing Mr. McKellar is trying to say is that the power of love- true love (NOT lust) will get us through - no matter what the obstacle.
I've seen this movie several times, and am the last person to be swayed by big Hollywood films that try to "steer" you to "feel" for their characters. Last Night is NOT an action picture. It moves slowly, and builds to an ending that never fails to bring a tear to my eye. I hope you enjoy it is much as I do.
What can I say about Last Night that hasn't already been said? Well, to
start, I feel this is the kind of Canadian film we Canadians have been
BEGGING to see for years. However, because of the fact that the film saw
limited release in arthouse theatres across the country, and is just
appearing on video now, chances are good that Last Night will not be seen by
a large majority of the public if not sent in to full release across the
This movie is Canadian -- without shoving the fact that it is down your throat.
Now, on to the actual guts of the movie. I find the understatement of the fact that the world IS ending in six short hours to be so uniquely Canadian. There is an odd, somewhat macabre scene in the movie where McKellar's character is being harassed by his mother for showing up late for "Christmas" dinner. Not once does mother mention the end of the world. McKellar's response? "... and in case you haven't noticed the world is going to end today, and I've had a lot on my mind."
Getting off my maple leaf waving-high-horse, I will say this: the performances by McKellar, Sandra Oh and Callum Keith Rennie are nothing short of superb. They portray characters you at times love, hate, and fear, because there are times (many times) that we see ourselves in these characters.
The soundtrack for Last Night (available on the Sony Classical label) is a mixture of both the corniest music on the face of the earth (Burton Cummings' live performance of Glamour Boy) to great oldies (Last Night [I Didn't Get to Sleep at All]) to songs few (if any people) have ever heard before (i.e. the Defranco Family's "Heartbeat, its a Lovebeat")
The story moves at a graceful pace, there are no surprise endings, and the characters are human(e). Last Night is a masterpiece.
Stark, original piece set in Canada has a really depressing, terrible feeling behind every scene, but how else can you make a movie about the last day of human survival? Every character is sadly, gloomily interesting, especially the great, under-appreciated Sandra Oh, who gives the picture most of its immediate emotion. Her character is married to a key figure in the story played by David Cronenberg, who just happens to be the best film maker Canada has ever produced. His plot is just as upsetting as everyone else's, although McKeller's rather sexy buddy seems to be having the most exhausting fun. He's going out in style with pleasure. Hint: he even hits on poor gloomy Don for one last experimental thrill... tho Don wimps out and turns him down...Another great actress, Genevieve Bujold, plays a nice role in several stories. She still looks stunning as she ages. And her accent. Probably worth hearing as the world is slowly dying. Outdoor scenery is mesmorizing. Indoor scenery is quiet and unsettling. You definitely need to be in the mood to watch this. It always leaves a rather brutal impression...
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