Last Night (1998)
Written and Directed by Don McKellar
Another slow moving, character driven Canadian film for the vault…
I didn't enjoy Last Night as much as I thought I was going to. I mean, Don McKellar, Sandra Oh, Callum Keith Rennie, Apocalypsey goodness - what's not to like, right? I think, being well acquainted with some of Don McKellar's other work, I expected it to be funnier. Yes, that's right, I expected a film about the end of the world to be funny. And to be sure, there were certainly highly amusing moments. But as a whole? It was as depressing as you would expect an impending doom film from anybody else to be.
This isn't to say I wasn't impressed with the film, because I was. I really, really was. Every time I think Callum, for instance, can't possibly impress me any more, he goes out and does so. Because Callum? He's all kinds of brilliant. And Don McKellar? The same.
I've said before that I'm not generally a fan of several different character subplots in one film, but I think I'm going to have to stop saying that, because this makes film number three which incorporates that system where I've thought it was effective and nicely done. I loved how everything was intertwined in Last Night. It got to the point where I was saying things like "now, these two are going to connect this way," and more times than not I was correct.
The characters were human, believable, and really very interesting - as were the actors who played them. The situation was also made to feel the same. Just what would you do if you knew there were only six hours left?
Sandra, as Sandra, was doing that thing where I find it impossible not to love her dearly. Callum, as Craig, was the one who made me laugh the most. Don, as Patrick, was… strangely likeable this time around. Yes, we still had hints of Patrick being slightly obnoxious (I choose to believe this is Don at his best), but for the most part he was a Good Person, did several selfless acts, and was a very sympathetic character.
It wasn't just Sandra, Callum and Don who were good. The entire cast was great. I really liked Tracy Wright's character, though I kept calling her Dizelle. And David Cronenberg, who is a famous director (as in, Director of a film which is nominated for 2 academy awards - A History of Violence), as well as a myriad of other things, was really very cool as Alex. It was the complexity of these additional characters which made the intertwining stories really work.
We never find out why the world is ending. We know it hasn't been night for a while and there's a constant blaze of very bright light. I find it convenient that everything ends at midnight Toronto time, but that's where you get into suspension of disbelief, isn't it? I was actually very happy that the reason the apocalypse was nigh was never explicitly delineated. This gave the film a taut, uncomfortable atmosphere, which was ambiguous enough to let you decide things for yourself.
The look of the film was visually appealing. I wanted to look, to analyse, to explore. There was brilliant use of signifiers, little touches of mise-en-scène, and use of interesting camera work without it being too "haha, this is interesting camera work!" But it was also obvious the budget was not all that large. Then again, I don't generally care about that, and films funded in Australia which are considered to be large budget are around AU$10 million. There was also a brilliant soundtrack, which was used to absolute perfection. There's nothing like grossly inappropriate music at the most inopportune time to make me joyful.
I did like Last Night, I liked it a lot, I just expected to love it, and I didn't do that. It was probably through absolutely no fault of the film, which, as I have mentioned, was superb, and more to do with me. As much as I love to denigrate commercialism for commercialism's sake, and complain about the lack of decent fare given to this day's cinema audience, I really do like Hollywood endings.
I knew that the world was going to end, there couldn't be any other way, I wouldn't want it any other way, but I somehow expected to feel calm and okay with that happening, and of course, that didn't happen. Instead, I grew to like those characters, and didn't appreciate the thought of them not living on. I was quite annoyed that they were all going to bite the dust.
The fact that this film made me so contemplative makes me think it has done its job, and admirably. I can't just shake it off in my mind, shrug my shoulders and go 'well, that's it'. I think I will probably grow to love this film, if I can ever stomach rewatching it, because I will know what to expect, and that expectation will not be 'hahaha, die, die, die'.
Sandra in all her glorious beauty. (Well, okay, I picked her when she's looking super concerned.)
Craig and Patrick.
Um. Yeah. This is my favourite scene. It's really quite funny, and I think, very realistic, given what we know of both characters. Hey, it even has boykissing. Even if one of the boys is Don McKellar, who, let's face it, is not so much a boy, as an institution.