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Overall Rating

Awesome: 13.16%
Worth A Look63.16%
Average: 21.05%
Pretty Bad: 2.63%
Total Crap: 0%

4 reviews, 14 user ratings

Last Night (1999)
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by iF Magazine

"McKellar may have stretched himself a wee bit thin."
4 stars

Neither the biggest in terms of production values nor the most harrowing, LAST NIGHT still qualifies as perhaps the sweetest-natured film yet made about the end of life on Earth. We never do learn exactly what’s gone wrong - nobody seems to be dying of the plague or radiation poisoning - but the sun hasn’t set for awhile now. Somehow, it’s common knowledge that the end is coming at midnight tonight. The residents of a metropolitan Canadian city are each trying to come to terms with their lack of future in their own individual ways. Some (though not as many as we might suppose) are rioting and looting; some are praying.

Patrick (Don McKellar) grudgingly has supper with his family, after which he plans to go home and spend the rest of the evening in silent contemplation. His evening is disrupted by the arrival on his doorstep of a stranger, Sandra (Sandra Oh), who is desperate to find some means of getting home to her husband after her car has been destroyed. Other characters in Patrick’s orbit include his sister Jennifer (Sarah Polley) and her boyfriend Alex (Trent McMullen), who philosophically decide to party out on the streets and longtime pal Craig (Callum Keith Rennie), who wants to have as much sex, of every description, as possible. There’s also gas company employees Duncan (David Cronenberg) and Donna (Tracy Wright), who are doing their best to be professional at their last night on the job.

Writer/director McKellar intelligently avoids nearly all of the cliches of the apocalypse genre. We meet everyone long after they’ve had time to absorb the bad news. None of the main characters are hysterical (Sandra gets pretty emotional, but for personal reasons, not global ones), violent or try in any way to prevent the end from coming. They have, in fact, virtually normalized a deeply abnormal situation, giving much of LAST NIGHT a quiet drollery that balances nicely with the gentle, sympathetic character studies. McKellar’s shrewd decision to keep his protagonists in their comfortable, scruffy middle-class surroundings and on populated but not crowded streets also allows him to design and shoot his film realistically within a budget that is tight but accommodates the story’s needs. He manages to be quirky and distinctive without turning surreal or strident. One of his best feats is to make the final choices of the main characters a matter of actual suspense; it’s a potent illustration of the notion that little things may count the most.

We get a sense that McKellar, an actor and stage director/writer expanding into first-time feature directing and scripting, may have stretched himself a wee bit thin by wearing so many hats here. There are occasions where it seems that he’s being over-generous with his co-stars simply because he doesn’t want to appear to hog the camera (even when it might be appropriate to stay focused on his character), but he projects an appealing presence. Oh is intense and persuasive as the determined Sandra. Rennie is enjoyably, dryly funny as the randy sexual adventurer. Cronenberg has a soft, benign demeanor with the barest hint of eccentricity - he and McKellar invite us to imagine what this guy is like at home (his character certainly inspires a lot of devotion).

There are places in which the internal mythology of LAST NIGHT doesn’t completely hang together. While having it remain daytime outside throughout is clearly helpful in shooting outdoors without exhausting cast, crew and lighting resources, it also is a little baffling for viewers trying to figure out what could have caused this particular catastrophe. Then again, any spelled-out explanation would create its own set of distractions and arguments, any and all of which would pull attention away from McKellar’s themes.

He doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, which is one of the things that makes LAST NIGHT such an agreeable inquiry into the question of what ultimately gives life meaning to different individuals. ---Abbie Bernstein - iF Magazine -

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originally posted: 11/23/99 22:54:46
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User Comments

7/03/12 Mr. Right Why does the review only reveal the race of one character? Itemize them all, lazybones! 4 stars
4/30/12 Marty Beautiful ending. Average and slow otherwise. Takes advantage of endworld themes. 3 stars
4/03/11 SappyOmegaGuppy Not an action flick, nor particularly cerebral, but certainl a worthwhile emotional journey 4 stars
1/09/09 donor excellent pic very low-key, down to earth but who was the virgin with craig 4 stars
7/08/08 KyZan Low-key powerful and simply outstanding. Devastating. 5 stars
3/03/03 DG One of my favorites 5 stars
11/09/02 Stevo Fantastic plot idea, boring movie. Bid Disappointment. Even Deep Impact kicks its ass. 2 stars
8/03/02 The Bomb69 nice first picture for Don, should get much better 4 stars
3/03/02 Unagiboy The most intelligent movie re: the end of the world. Sandra Oh is brilliant (as usual). 5 stars
8/03/00 chad warford this is the greatest movie ever made. 5 stars
11/24/99 Ramsay Don's the man 4 stars
11/08/99 [KingMob] A decent artish flick, some long bits though. 4 stars
11/05/99 lkjh fgtr 3 stars
11/02/99 Ataraxia Excellent. 5 stars
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  05-Nov-1999 (R)



Directed by
  Don McKellar

Written by
  Don McKellar

  Don McKellar
  Sarah Polley
  David Cronenberg
  Tracy Wright
  Genevičve Bujold

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