“Last Night” is more of a relationship drama than a romance movie. First time director Massy Tadjedin also wrote this story of a seemingly happily married couple whose relationship will be tested during a 24 hour period apart. It’s a story that does supply some good moments and asks some good questions. But it also lacks the life and energy needed to sell these characters and it’s never quite as provocative as it tries to be.
Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington play Joanna and Michael Reed. The couple are working on their third year of marriage and seem to have found their place in New York City. But Joanna becomes jealous when she sees Michael spending a suspiciously large amount of time with a beautiful colleague of his (Eva Mendes) at a company party. At home, later that night, we see the couple argue over this but make up in time for Michael to head off on a brief business trip in Philadelphia. While he’s gone Joanna runs into old flame Alex (Guillaume Canet) who she agrees to meet for a drink later. Meanwhile Michael finds himself tempted in Philly by the same colleague that stirred his wife’s jealousy.
The movie evolves into a will-they-or-won’t-they-cheat narrative driven by the lead characters’ insistence on putting themselves into the worst possible situations. Granted, we the audience are meant to suspect that this allegedly happy marriage is really built on a weak foundation which is exposed by their behavior. But I kept shaking my head wondering why anyone would continue to put themselves in such positions to fall unless they just weren’t very nice people. And that’s an issue I had with “Last Night”, none of the main characters are all that likeable and in a story like this it’s nice to have someone to root for.
The film does keep a certain level of intrigue as both Joanna and Michael repel the temptations they face only to put themselves back in the line of fire. I was genuinely interested in whether or not the couple could weather the storm and resist what could potentially destroy their marriage. But my interest wasn’t sparked by any direct connection to the characters. In fact, it’s really hard to connect to these characters. Knightley certainly gives the best performance in the film but even she is let down in spots by the material most notably with this past relationship with Alex. It just doesn’t sell. I actually like Sam Worthington but he seems out of his element here. He sometimes comes across as wooden and emotionless which can hinder a story like this..
“Last Night” has good intentions. Massy Tadjedin does ask good questions about jealousy, devotion, and marriage. It’s seems to make the good point that strong marriages aren’t built on weak foundations and even what looks like a good relationship can crumble if it’s not intended to be. But unfortunately the movie doesn’t give us the characters we need to really emotionally invest in this type of story. We get hints of genuineness and there are some scenes that feel true. But it also sometimes feels lifeless and mundane. “Last Night” is a nice first effort from Tadjedin who gets some things right. But a character-driven film requires characters and we just don’t get consistent ones here.