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Possesses more of a sense of futility than tragedy
on 5 February 2012
I'm usually a fan of the odd and quirky, but this definitively odd and quirky little apocalyptic film never really connected with me in a spiritual or emotional way. I'm used to liking films others don't like, so it's always a little disconcerting to find myself explaining my dissatisfaction with a movie that others found moving or even profound. Certainly, the potential end of humanity should be a profound concept. All I found among the characters of Last Night, however, was an aloof sense of resignation - and very little despair. Tragic figures abound, but any overall sense of tragedy somehow comes up lacking, as far as I'm concerned.
Last Night begins at 6:00 pm on humanity's last day of existence. Six hours later, at precisely midnight, the world is going to end - and everyone knows it. Apparently, it's been common knowledge for at least a couple of months, so by this point most people seemed pretty much resigned to the fact that they are in their final hours of life and have already decided how they will spend their last night. Some choose to act like hooligans out on the streets, some unite with their families, some (even at least one hooker) continue working, some prepare to meet their end in solitude, etc. Patrick Wheeler (Don McKellar, who also wrote and directed the film) leaves his family gathering to meet death on his own terms, only to find himself interacting with others in an effort to help reunite Sandra (Sandra Oh) and her husband Duncan (played by David Cronenberg), a gas company executive who goes to the trouble of making courtesy calls to every single customer of the company before the end comes. Sandra apparently spent so much time preparing for her final moments that she forgot to purchase necessary supplies until the very last day, at which point she is unable to make it back home. While the film centers on Patrick and Sandra, other characters certainly leave an impression upon the viewer. Patrick's friend Alex (Trent McMullen), for example, has devoted all of his final days to fulfilling every sexual fantasy he can think of. Another acquaintance schedules his musical debut for the final hour. Then there are basically throwaway characters who lend an even more surreal feel to what is happening, such as a mother and daughter who sit along on a vacant bus throughout the duration of the story.
All of this is interesting, but I didn't find any of it particularly moving. What we are privy to here are people leading futile lives preparing for their own futile ends. I should be feeling mournful and compassionate towards these people - but I really don't, and that is why Last Night failed to win me over. There just doesn't seem to be any point to all of this. The only thing that kept me hooked was my curiosity concerning how the world would end. That is not something that our characters speak of, although one gets a sense of its potential nature from the complete lack of darkness accompanying the day's late night hours. It turns out that this world goes out with a proverbial whimper, and I think the same can be said of this film.