So here’s the thing: I have an affinity for dramas about disintegrating relationships. I also have a keen attraction to Keira Knightley movies. “Last Night” happens to fall into both of these categories.
Michael (Sam Worthington) travels to Philadelphia on a business trip, with the very alluring Laura (Eva Mendes). In the meantime, Joanna (Knightley), who is supposed to be working on her novel, encounters her old flame, Alex (Guillaume Canet), who she is clearly and desperately still in love with.
The film has a lingering feeling to it. Even though the action lies more in their moral decisions, “Last Night” inevitably leaves the audience with a key question. Which is worse: an emotional betrayal or a physical betrayal? And is any relationship safe when doubt comes into play?
The film doesn’t try to answer these questions nor does it allow its characters to reach the questions at all. Instead, the film follows Joanna and Michael through their encounters with these two temptations and how they handle them.
Keira Knightley’s every expression plays perfectly, and it is fortunate, for Worthington delivers a stoic performance, assumedly meant to keep the audience guessing. Just watch this clip, in which Joanna first suspects something going on between her husband and Laura. There’s only a little dialogue in this instance, and the camera remains on Joanna’s face, reliant upon Knightley to show her doubt.
Additionally, in one scene, Joanna rubs lotion on her legs and fixes her make-up to perfection, and as she pauses to stare at herself in the mirror, you can see the doubt and guilt filter across her face. She never tries to look nice for her husband anymore; even in the first scene, when the couple is running late for a party, she merely throws on a plain outfit. Yet, at the first sign of attention from Alex, Joanna immediately dresses to the nines. It is one of those moments that resonates; one of those moments where you know that one night could change everything.
The score also manages to sync well with the action at times, but for the most part, the continuous loop of a single note on a piano being played comes off like “Last Night” is meant to be a suspense film, which is far from the truth.
Unfortunately, while “Last Night” poses a rousing plot, the execution is too slow and relies too much on the audience being able to read the actors’ expressions instead of relying on the dialogue. Sam Worthington and Eva Mendes carry the other half of the story, and I found myself questioning why Laura, Mendes’ character, would think cheating was really worth it.
As the pair provocatively swim half-naked at the hotel, Laura relates her own story to Michael. In the past, she stumbled upon photos of her ex-boyfriend and another woman. After fighting like “animals,” as she puts it, they decided to stay together and it was for the better.
Clearly, the tryst nearly destroyed her past relationship. Why would Laura go after someone else’s?
The first-time writer and director, Massy Tadjedin, tries to capture the nuances of relationships, but the film honestly required more meaningful dialogue amongst the four main characters.
Alex’s friend, Truman (Griffin Dunne), interrogates Joanna at one point, callously asking where her husband is, if she is going to tell Michael of her night with Alex, and other intrusive questions that a normal acquaintance would never dare to ask. Tajedin tries to explain this by having Truman repeat, “I sometimes go too far,” but it comes off as a blatant way of using Truman as Joanna’s conscience.
“Last Night” has its moments, and it is, for many, a relatable story. Usually we’re told the story of the divorce, of the fighting, or of the rebounding, but this one drops off before any of that happens, leaving you to wonder, “Will Michael and Joanna tell each other the truth?” and, “Can they move beyond this?”
Although the film came off lacking in the end, at least it was 90 minutes of staring at beautiful people and a fine conversation starter. Trust me, not everyone agrees on whether an emotional or physical affair is worse in relationship. Just ask.