Rating: R (for some language)
Length: 93 minutes
Release Date: November 5, 2010 (Italy)
Directed by: Massy Tadjedin
Stars: 4 out of 5
Temptation-whether it’s physical or emotional-can turn a simple night into a minefield and can threaten everything that feels normal. Massy Tadjedin’s film “Last Night” gives a brutally honest look at such temptation, as well as doubt, love, sex and trust.
The story begins with married couple Joanna (Keira Knightley) and Michael (Sam Worthington) getting ready for a work party of Michael’s. It’s clear from the start that their marriage has some sort of strain, as he watches a sports game on TV and shovels down some quick dinner, essentially ignoring her while she gets beautiful. But the true strain starts to show when Joanna notices how little time Michael spends at the party with her and how much time he spends with his beautiful coworker Laura (Eva Mendes).
Michael has never mentioned her before-a fact that Joanna finds deeply suspicious. They argue later that night, with her accusing him of being unfaithful and him denying it. They eventually make up, but the next morning has him heading out of town on a business trip, with Laura attending, too. That night, Michael and Laura end up finding a bar together and quietly sharing some drinks while getting to know each other better.
Meanwhile, Joanna faces her own moment of temptation when she runs into her old love, Alex (Guillaume Canet), who will be in town for only one more night. The audience learns that Joanna and Alex fell in love years ago while she and Michael had taken some time off from each other, and Joanna has never told her husband about her time with Alex. They make plans to join his friends for dinner that night, and as the evening progresses, it becomes very clear how much Joanna loved Alex and still misses him in her life.
The true emotional pull of “Last Night” comes from how close these two pairs become over the course of this one night. The audience sees just how alluring Laura is for Michael and how much she just wants to find an excuse to be alone with him, away from the rest of their coworkers. At the same time, the love that Joanna and Alex shared in their past comes bubbling up inside both of them, no matter how much of a guard Joanna tries to put up.
Yet, Michael and Joanna haven’t forgotten about each other; they both speak of their spouses, their marriage and their years together to their partners for the night, making it all that much more difficult for them to give in to their passions and for the audience to wholeheartedly root for these pairings.
Nothing is easy when it comes to emotions, and “Last Night” knows it. Even such seemingly simple feelings as love and trust become filled with sneaking suspicion and quiet desperation. Tadjedin, as writer and director, does her best to explore just how far people are willing to fulfill their temptations while still being able to look at themselves in the mirror the next day.
The four leads all give truly believable performances as human beings fraught with desires that they might or might not be able to control. Worthington lets Michael’s self-doubt show while still being captivated by Laura. As Laura, Mendes brings a quiet maturity to a role that could easily be misplayed as just a heartless temptress. Canet uses his natural charisma well to show how tempted Alex is to completely sweep Joanna off her feet once more, even though he clearly knows that time has robbed them of what they had. It can be said that Knightley gives the best performance of all as Joanna. Knightley shows how Joanna is too comfortable but at the same time somewhat wary in her marriage to Michael. She consciously tries to hold back her emotions with Alex, but every flicker of love still shines on her face when she looks at him. In the end, when Joanna ultimately makes her decision about what to do with Alex that night, the bliss and the pain both show on Knightley’s face, because nothing is easy or cut-and-dried in “Last Night.”
There is one line in the film that encompasses everything the movie is trying to covey. Michael is sitting with Laura, discussing his marriage while keeping his desires fully in mind: “You can be happy and still be tempted.” It’s the hard lesson and the ultimate truth behind “Last Night.”