Tribeca Review: Last Night Is Evocative, Rewarding And Deeply Felt

By Katey Rich 2011-04-21 13:37:09discussion comments
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The Tribeca Film Festival is famous for its lack of identity, assembling a seemingly random collection of minor American indies, oddball foreign films and the occasional giant blockbuster to open up the fest; the festival is democratic and accessible but also scattered and impossible to define. If any movie has ever demanded to set the tone for this particular festival, though, it's Last Night, a moody and elegant little actor's showcase that happens to be set among the hip cobblestones and steel girders that define the expensive Triangle Below Canal.

Recognizing an opportunity when they see it, the Tribeca Film Festival picked Last Night for their first effort as a distributor; it will make its America premiere at the festival on Monday the 25th before coming to limited theaters and various on-demand outlets on May 6. And though it would be nice to catch the movie in the East Village and then walk over to the hip Soho House hotel where it is partially set, Last Night is intimately scaled so that it will work well at home too. The movie occasionally feels so low-key and hushed as to barely exist, but it evokes such specific emotions and performances from its four leads that it is well worth seeing, no matter how far you are from Tribeca itself.

Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington, two actors who have been ubiquitous in blockbusters at various points in the last few years, star as a young, almost obscenely privileged married couple floating fairly happily through their expansive Manhattan loft. The movie starts with a party for his work and a fight they have after when she notices him getting friendly, but not inappropriately so, with a va-va-voom new co-worker played by Eva Mendes. He takes off the next day on a business trip to Philadelphia with the potential homewrecker, and she thinks she's settling in for a lonely night of work when she runs into an old flame from the time she lived in Paris several years earlier; he is played by the crinkly eyed and perfectly accented Guillaume Canet, and boy is he trouble.

There's a significant imbalance between the two stories, as Knightley and Canet play out the reunion between two people whose significant past love was interrupted only by distance, and Worthington and Mendes play two relative strangers operating on lust and little else. There is a distinct ache to Knightley and Canet's body language with each other, an unspoken history every time they touch; by contrast Worthington and Mendes are hampered not only by a story with less depth, but by acting chops that can't quite match what Knightley is able to do with one turn of her neck. Both stories hinge on the question of "Will they or won't they?" but Last Night is made more powerful by acknowledging that it doesn't really matter; the damage, great or small, is already done.

Worthington especially shows skills he wasn't quite able to dig up in Avatar and Clash of the Titans, and writer-director Massy Tadjedin follows the film's smaller and bigger moments with such fluidity that it takes a long while to notice that one story outshines the other. The film is evocative, both of its glamorous New York City setting and the specific relationships it depicts-- a marriage full of love but also doubts, an erotically charged but emotionally empty new affair, an old love who resurfaces and makes you ask "What if?" Everyone can relate to at least one, and Last Night's simplicity makes it easy to slip inside the story and inhabit this deeply felt and rewarding story.
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