Iranian writer-director Massy Tadjedin arrives in films via Tehran and Harvard with Last Night, a tedious but cogent feature debut that explores the boundaries of conventional morality in a seemingly perfect modern marriage that is beginning to show cracks. After four years of togetherness, an attractive, successful and outwardly flawless New York couple (with inexplicable British accents) hits a pothole it takes a day and a night to pave. During the 24 hours it takes them to contemplate and resolve the temptation of infidelity, we learn a lot about love, betrayal and commitment.
Joanna and Michael Reed (Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington) have the money, looks and challenging careers to take advantage of everything life has to offer, but one night at a party, she sees him paying a lot of obvious, unnecessary attention to a sexy, flirtatious colleague he’s never mentioned named Laura (Eva Mendes) and gets curious about what happens behind her back on the out-of-town business trips they make together. Michael denies it, but with the kind of anger that sounds like guilt. Suspicion grows when he heads for yet another overnight trip to Philadelphia with Laura, but in his absence Joanna runs into an old lover from her past (dashing French actor Guillaume Canet) and to her surprise, her own sparks fly. In Philadelphia, a midnight underwear swim in the deserted hotel pool. In New York, a passionate kiss in a loft elevator. One thing leads to the next, and both partners test their principles before they learn what their true priorities are. One surrenders to lust and breaks the marriage vow, the other remains shaken but loyal. No spoilers. But what the director seems to be saying is that sometimes, in even the best and most privileged marriages, suspicion and doubt are all it takes to provoke perfidy.
Beautifully shot and reeking with style, Last Night is as slow as sorghum; nothing ever really happens. Everyone suffers and agonizes, but they wear wonderful clothes while doing it. Ms. Knightly does some of her most luminous work here, but neither of the leads are developed enough to care about. The most charismatic and camera-ready person in the cast is Mr. Canet, as Joanna’s old boyfriend Alex, who convinces you it would have been a better movie if Last Night had been about him. It’s a quiet, contemplative film that reminded me of Mike Nichols’ Closer, with too many shots of lighting cigarettes and looking pensive in train windows, but I liked it.
Running time 96 minutes
Written and directed by Massy Tadjedin
Starring Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Eva Mendes