October 4, 2009

Last Night (1998)

(Sandra Oh goes "grocery shopping" in Last Night.)

Out of all the apocalypse-themed films, the Canadian film Last Night has perhaps the most straightforward setting: the world as we know it is ending at midnight; what would you do? We follow a handful of characters living in Toronto as they spend their last remaining hours on earth. Patrick (writer-director-actor Don McKellar) leaves a final family dinner to face it alone, Sandra (Sandra Oh) tries in vain to get home to her husband after her car is destroyed, and Duncan (David Cronenberg), a gas company head, calls every single client to thank and assure them that they will receive electricity til the end.

(Don McKellar awaits the apocalypse.)

Last NightMcKellar's take on the then-imminent new millennium is a little morbid, but thankfully, he's more interested in exploring the ephemeral human connections than sensationalizing the situation. Scenes of Oh and McKellar's characters cramming a "getting to know you" conversation in a rush to feel intimacy, or Patrick's 80-year-old grandmother declaring to a fellow grandmother that the significance of death is wasted on the young are achingly wistful. The dystopian elements (rioting youth turning over cars and killing for the hell of it, abandoned and mostly looted supermarkets) don't always mesh smoothly with the emotion, and in particular, the zombie-movie score feels jarringly incongruous. But seen as a portrait of pre-internet domination era life, it does, in a way, feel as if the world of Last Night no longer exists. If an aughts version of this film existed, you can bet at least one character would wait out the end in front of the computer, transmitting a final goodbye to a YouTube audience.

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