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Overall Rating

Awesome: 18.18%
Worth A Look63.64%
Average: 9.09%
Pretty Bad: 4.55%
Total Crap: 4.55%

2 reviews, 10 user ratings

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Last Kiss, The (2002)
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by Andrew Howe

"Dysfunctional relationships, Italian style"
4 stars

If you believe everything you see at the movies, the modern-day relationship is in serious trouble. Spent passion, infidelity, voices pitched at screaming level – the honeymoon’s definitely over, and L’Ultimo Bacio dispels any notion that the European community might be holding out against the rising tide of cynicism, self-absorption and the lure of a fresh start in a place where the grass is a more inviting shade of green.

This is the nature of the industry – watching actors play happy families for a couple of hours is nobody’s idea of entertainment, so savvy scriptwriters preface any mention of their characters’ interpersonal relations with the word “dysfunctional” (unless they’re pitching to Disney, in which case the characters are “working through some issues”). Gabriele Muccino obviously takes a dim view of our ability to foster loving, meaningful relationships, but he possesses a certain affection for mankind’s limitless capacity for folly, and the result is a good-natured film which proves there’s nothing wrong with walking a well-trodden path if you’ve got a first-rate cast along for the ride.

Viewer identification is the key to any character-driven film, and Muccino casts a wide net in his quest for common ground. There’s Carlo and Giulia (Stefano Accorsi and Giovanna Mezzogiorno), an attractive couple who, on the surface, appear to have the kind of committed long-term love affair that silences the cynics. Giulia’s in love with the concept of motherhood and marriage, but Carlo’s concerned about losing his freedom, a fear that’s exacerbated by his friend Adriano’s deteriorating relationship. Adriano’s traded sweet nothings at bedtime for arguments before breakfast, but he hasn’t spent thirty years tolerating his better half, which is the fate that’s befallen Giulia’s mother Anna (Stefania Sandrelli). Then again, neither of them wakes to the knowledge that their ex-lover is taking her pleasures elsewhere – that’s Paolo’s job, but at least he loved and lost, whereas eighteen year-old Francesca (Martina Stella) has to deal with the knowledge that she’s unlikely to be anything more than a late-night fling for the philandering Carlo.

If it’s starting to sound like an episode of your favourite soap, you can rest assured that Muccino has better things to do with his time than insult our intelligence. The likeable and well-drawn characters invite us to become involved in their lives, and Muccino’s breezy style provides a refreshing contrast to the mean-spirited meditations that make films like Wonderland such a trial.

Carlo’s ill-advised flirtations occupy a disproportionate share of the narrative, and Accorsi’s engaging performance makes it time well spent. Carlo encapsulates the best and worst the male of the species has to offer – he’s a dependable friend and considerate partner, but a misty-eyed yearning for his fading youth blinds him to the riches of his relationship, to the extent that he’s willing to risk it all to shore up his flagging self-image (though you can’t really blame the poor guy: Francesca’s the kind of girl who could wear a nun’s habit and still invite impure thoughts).

Your personal experience will dictate your reaction to Carlo’s exploits - some will decry him as a pin-up boy for the Hugh Grant Society (membership requirements: possession of riches about which most of us could only dream, combined with a pathological inability to keep your fly zipped), while others will sympathise with his inability to face the fact that his glory days have passed him by. However, the script has no intention of taking the moral high ground, allowing us to make our own judgements about his right to life, a tactic Muccino applies to the entire character roster.

The remaining characters suffer from their limited screen time, but the script’s universal themes and the commitment of the cast prevent them from fading into the background. Stella is particularly memorable – Francesca’s starry-eyed attitude to relationships is endearing, inviting us to recall the days when we checked our emotional baggage at the door, and her attempts to salvage her dreams of a fairytale romance with Carlo are heartbreaking. Adriano (Giorgio Pasotti) and Paolo (Claudio Santamaria) are suitably sympathetic – shell-shocked veterans of relationships that came to resemble a battleground will be wincing during the snapshots from Adriano’s marriage, while anyone who has tortured themselves with visions of their ex-lover’s bedroom liaisons might find that Paolo’s obsession cuts a little close to the bone – and Anna’s struggle to come to terms with a solitary existence after an extended partnership is, at times, almost painful to watch.

Despite the well-realised dramatic elements the film is, at its core, a relatively light-hearted exercise. Muccino adopts a wry and knowing stance, but he never mocks his subjects, and if we’ve seen it all before it’s difficult to complain when the journey is this entertaining. You’ll be willing the characters to succeed in their quest for personal growth, and if nobody comes out of it unscathed we can take solace in the fact that many of them have taken the first step towards a better tomorrow (the others, alas, will reap what they sow). The film ends with the protagonists embarking on a new cycle in their lives, and it’s a testament to the skill of everyone involved that you wish them the best on the long and trying road ahead.

What L’Ultimo Bacio lacks in substance it makes up for in heart, and if you’ve reached the stage where you’re wondering why you bother there’s a message at its core you’d be advised to heed – the honeymoon may be over, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for it’ll be that much harder to get it back.

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originally posted: 03/30/02 12:44:28
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2002 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2002 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/04/08 Shaun Wallner Well made. 4 stars
9/03/06 William Goss Uneven Italian melodrama grows steadily contrived instead of charming. 3 stars
11/02/05 DeBBie Pisani Good film 4 stars
7/28/04 Elizabeth All the yelling and bickering got annoying FAST. 2 stars
9/29/03 Elisabetta So saaad... 5 stars
6/05/03 Rich Peres Great film - a classic 5 stars
6/04/03 Carol A movie about relationship and love. Without any "cliche", but with sincerity and emotion. 5 stars
10/06/02 Kerry Muzzey "Next week, on Telemundo..." is what I expected to hear over the end credits of this one. 3 stars
9/29/02 Peter Sherlock God it was boring. American formula film with sub-titles. 1 stars
5/21/02 Di Stasio Katiuscia I love it 5 stars
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  02-Aug-2002 (R)
  DVD: 11-Nov-2003



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