Love, Death and the Whole Darn Thing
What could an elderly philosophy professor and a young dance teacher possibly have in common? Last Love, starring Michael Caine and Clémence Poésy, answers that question in a poignant drama about loss, friendship, family and true love. It’s a slow-moving – but beautiful -- film with performances that go straight to your heart.
Gorgeous Paris settings add to the movie’s visual appeal, and Caine’s in-depth portrayal of a widower, who feels the future holds nothing for him, definitely deserves notice during this year’s awards season. Poésy (In Bruges) is equally wonderful as a compassionate young woman who tries to help Caine’s (The Dark Knight Rises) gloomy character change his mind. Other cast members provide excellent support, especially Gillian Anderson (Johnny English Reborn) and Justin Kirk (Nobody Walks) in the difficult roles of siblings with negative feelings about their father.
Director Sandra Nettleback (Mostly Martha) also adapted the screenplay (from Francoise Dorner’s novel), and she moves the story along in a leisurely pace to make sure we get properly acquainted with the main characters and their relationship. Matthew (Caine) and Pauline (Poésy) seem to know each other from the very first time they meet randomly on a bus. We, however, know Matthew much better than Pauline because the camera has focused on him and his reaction to the death of his wife (Jane Alexander) for several sad scenes prior to the bus sequence. We feel sympathy for Matthew, but we can’t help wondering why Pauline has taken such an interest in him. In fact, we’re just as curious about that as Matthew is. Finding out why is part of the charm of watching Last Love. Also charming are the scenes where Matthew finally agrees to a couple of dance lessons. (Still, I don’t think we’ll be seeing Michael Caine in a musical or on “Dancing with the Stars” real soon!)
When Matthew’s son (Kirk) and daughter (Anderson) come to Paris after his admission to the hospital, they’re surprised and angry about their father’s relationship with Pauline. Both siblings are having personal problems of their own, and Matthew just adds to their burdens. Anderson unleashes her comic talent in scenes where her character complains about Pauline or obsesses about shopping or refuses to follow rules about smoking. She brings a lot of energy to the screen that’s great fun to see here! Kirk plays the more somber sibling role, and he’s very convincing. Father/son scenes between Kirk and Caine show both of their characters aching with hidden emotions.
Will Matthew come to an understanding with his son and daughter? Will Pauline succeed in helping Matthew believe there’s happiness for him – even without his beloved wife? And will Pauline find happiness for herself?
Last Love may not answer all of those questions to your satisfaction, but it’s a film that should appeal to many discerning viewers. And it’s a must-see for Michael Caine fans.
Death ends a life, not a relationship. --- Jack Lemmon
Part of getting over it is knowing you will never get over it. – Ann Finger
(Released by Image Entertainment; not rated by MPAA.)
For more information about this film, go to the Movie Internet Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.