Unlike ARMAGEDDON or DEEP IMPACT, which focuses on lots of special effects and science-fiction explorations of the end of the world, LAST NIGHT doesn’t tell the audience at all about how the world will end, nor demonstrate any attempt to stop this ultimate catastrophe. The ensemble cast of this Canadian produced movie accept their doom while the movie explores the final six hours of life in Toronto by focusing on what happens when various people’s worldviews come to a head.
Written and directed by Don McKeller, who has also written for Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg, two of Canada’s leading filmmakers, LAST NIGHT has McKellar starring as Patrick. A melancholy loner, Patrick meets his caring, warm family for a Christmas-like dinner at 6 p.m. (Annihilation is understood to occur at 12 midnight.) Patrick’s parents offer a Christian prayer and try to spread love among the family. Though everyone is rational, they are obviously nervous or even on edge. His sister, Jennifer (Sarah Polley, a rising Canadian actress), plans to spend the final hours on the street partying with her boyfriend. Patrick’s parents want him to stay with them, or at least with somebody, but Patrick wants to be alone.
On his way home, he meets a scared woman named Sandra (Sandra Oh) who had her car overturned by vandals. She is trying to get home to be with her husband, who lives across town. Patrick tries to help her steal and hotwire a car, but he doesn’t know how to do it. Eventually, Patrick’s friend Craig (Callum Keith Rennie), who has been spending the final hours fornicating with various people, including his former French teacher, lends Sandra a classic car to drive home. This car was originally owned by Patrick. Meanwhile, a gas company customer service representative assures his customers that they will continue to receive service until the very end.
Sandra is stopped in traffic, and the car is vandalized. In tears, she runs out and returns to Patrick’s home. There, she cannot reach her husband on the phone, and she tells Patrick that her plan was to commit mutual suicide with her husband at midnight. She tells Patrick that she won’t let her life be taken by this world. She asks Patrick to kill her, and she offers to kill him as well. In the final moments, he tells her about a major loss in his life, she becomes empathetic and even begins to love him a little. Then, in the final seconds of life on earth, the images jump to show what each each member of the cast is doing, and it is revealed whether or not Patrick and Sandra shoot each other.
With an ensemble cast portraying various people with their own distinct worldviews, it is interesting to see what each chooses to do in the final hours and seconds of their lives. Those with a moral grounding, such as Patrick’s parents and grandparents, choose to surround themselves with good memories, family and prayer. Craig, who seems only motivated by conquering goals of his fleshly desires, chooses to have different sexual encounters that are merely checkpoints on a list until the very end. This includes a homosexual advance to Patrick. Jennifer isn’t depicted on screen much, but it is implied that she merely rides out the end in a sea of people on the streets. The gas company man meets a lonely end as vigilantes take the streets in a display of anarchy, knowing that world order is about to finish.
Patrick and Sandra achieve the greatest change in their assumptions and expections on what they will do when the end occurs. Both experience a finish that is quite unlike anything they planned. Patrick receives the fleeting moment of genuine personal connection and love that had been missing in his life. Sandra also finds that love conquers her plans of suicide.
David Cronenberg has made some of the weiredest movies of all time. Atom Egoyan has made some of the most emotionally intriguing and soul-searching movies of all time. Don McKellar seems to be following in his countrymen’s footsteps. He creates a most unusual piece that unfolds slowly, without a clear agenda behind the motives of the characters, and that merely lets the audience see a slice of life at a most awkward time. McKeller doesn’t focus on the completely irrational, uncontrolled people who certainly would be prevalent in such a circumstance, but rather reveals characters of conscience who make deliberate decisions.
The Bible clearly states that there is a beginning and an end. Some might say that Christ’s return is emminant and/or that the year 2000 will usher in the end of the world. This isn’t known at all. However, each one of us will meet an end someday and, therefore, we should live our lives unto Christ. LAST NIGHT includes both God honoring and God forsaking activity. The movie, while not appealing to a wide audience because of its quirkiness and stark art-house visual style, points to the question of “How would you live your life if you knew it was about to end?”
Real life events like the tragic death of John F. Kennedy, Jr. and the earthquake in Turkey bring the reality of death to our awareness almost every day, but the issue of death sometimes requires a dramatic interpretation. LAST NIGHT is thankfully void of cartoon action-violence, macho men, scientists, and the like, and will stir many viewers into examining their faith and purposes. Offbeat, thought-provoking, primarily bittersweet, and sometimes silly, it certainly rates as one of the quirkier fall selections.
Mixed worldview including depiction of Christian prayers with strong male character exhorting civility, courteousness & self-sacrifice, plus many depictions of humanist, anarchic behaviors; 17 obscenities, 4 profanities, lewd gestures, & some sexual talk; mild violence including vandalism, people turn over car, people overturn bus, man hits man with shovel, threats with gun, & implied murder with depiction of corpse in a pool of blood; depicted fornication, prostitution, implied fornication, propositions for homosexual sex, men kiss, & stripping; rear male nudity, upper female nudity, & upper male nudity; alcohol use; smoking; and, theft, mayhem & discussions & images about RATING: Not rated by MPAA