It’s easy to dismiss a movie like “Last Love” as lightweight and forgettable. It’s not loud or showy nor is it anything new or profound. It’s a movie that you will either latch onto and enjoy or fail to connect with and be utterly bored. Sometimes we get movies like that – films that you either connect with or you don’t. I definitely connected with this 2013 drama written and directed by Sandra Nettelbeck. It also goes by the title of “Mr. Morgan’s Last Love”, but regardless of what you want to call it, it’s an intimate and earnest examination of lost love, fractured families, and the will to live.
The story’s initial plot point puts the film somewhere in between Pixar’s “Up” and Michael Haneke’s “Amour” (a sharp contrast, I know). The great Michael Caine plays a retired philosophy professor named Matthew Morgan. In the film’s first scene we see him sitting at the bedside of his deceased wife in their Paris apartment. Three years pass and Matthew has fallen into a suicidal state of depression. But his life takes an enigmatic turn when he meets a compassionate young Parisian woman named Pauline (Clémence Poésy). She adds a new element to his life that he can’t define. The two strike up a sweet relationship that could potentially fill the overcast voids in their lives.
“Last Love” is based on Francoise Dorner’s novel “La Douceur Assassine”. Nettelbeck’s adaption takes several creative liberties that adds new dimensions while still capturing the charm of the book. Her film is slow-moving and unfolds at a pace that may not suit some people. It worked for me mainly due to the two main characters. I truly cared about Matthew and Pauline and I was drawn to their unlikely relationship. The two share similar feelings of isolation and loneliness and each see things in the other that they want. It’s both lovely and gloomy. It’s desperate and hopeful.
As you would expect, Michael Caine is fabulous. He gives a sincere and nuanced performance that is capped with a stinging realism. He demands an emotional commitment from the audience. Caine makes us feel for him and hope his situation improves. But things get worse when Matthew’s two kids arrive from America to check up on him. His son Miles (Justin Kirk) is a smug jerk who is clearly harboring anger from a past experience. Matthew’s daughter Karen (Gillian Anderson) is a self-absorbed and disrespectful snot who feels inconvenienced by having to check on her father. Both Kirk and Anderson are very good and they add a whole new layer to Matthew’s state of being.
But for me, the most captivating performance came from Clémence Poésy. The versatile French actress is essential to the story’s effectiveness. We learn a few details about her character but in many other ways she is a mystery. Her compassion and exuberance are intoxicating but they mask a deeper yearning. In some ways Poésy gives us a character just as sad as Matthew. She is such a good actress and she is the one asked to navigate the trickier character developments. She does so with ease.
“Last Love” is a poignant film about lost souls desperate to plug holes in their lives. It’s charming, sweet, somber, and heartbreaking. Now it does dip its toes into the pool of sentimentality on a few occasions. I’m also struggling with my feelings about the film’s ending. There’s no twist or ambiguity. I’m just not sure how I feel about it. But I do know that I really liked this film. I was unquestionably drawn to the characters, I loved the Paris setting, and the heartfelt story carried me through till the end. This was a small 2013 film seen by few, but it caught my eye and I’m glad it did.
I have been deliberating whether or not I want to see this flick. I think you just answered the question for me. I’ll see it soon.
Thanks man. I wasn’t sure how many people even knew this film existed. Really glad that you’ve been considering it. It’s a movie that you just need to latch onto. If you can do that there is really good heart at the core of the film that I appreciated. If you see it please tell me what you think.
I haven’t heard of this movie before. The slow pacing may throw me off but I do like the notion of two lost souls filling the void in each other’s lives. I guess I can’t go wrong with Michael Caine.
I really did enjoy the film. It asks you to just hop on board and take somethings and go with them. I had no problem doing that and I was rewarded for it.
Are you a big fan of Michael Caine? He’s quite good here as you would expect. But I really loved Clémence Poésy. It’s worth seeing just for her alone.
I respect the actor and like most of the Nolan films he’s been in. I still have to catch up on most of his earlier work.
The first movie of his I ever saw was “Blame it on Rio”. I was just a kid and watched it behind my parents back! It’s a pretty twisted story!
From reading your review, the film sounds similar to Lost in Translation. Would you say the films are alike?
They do share some of the same elements. This one is a bit more melodramatic and the family dynamics are certainly different. But the unlikely meeting and relationship is certainly the same.
Hope you’ll give it a look. It has some narrative issues but I was caught up in it.
I’m game. Two unlikely characters connecting sounds like right up my alley. Thanks, Keith. Never heard of it.
Awesome Cindy! I don’t expect many comments on this review mainly because it is a small movie that no one has heard of. Still I wanted to share it in hopes that others would give it a look. I hope you do and that you will come back and tell me what you think of it.
Never apologize for liking a film 😉 There’s no way we all can love the same stuff. For example, everyone seemed to love Redford in All is Lost. I can’t for the life of me figure out why. I thought it was boring and looking at Redford’s stone face for an hour and a half got old. I didn’t think he acted well at all–a hundred others could have done what he did. The only redeeming part of the film was the underwater shots looking up at the bottom of the raft.
LOL. That’s a great example. I was a big fan of “All is Lost” which proves your point perfectly. 🙂
I think the thing with “Last Love” is that I do recognize its flaws but I was still able to latch onto these characters. That’s the main reason I liked the film so well. My wife was a big fan too.
A blogger said to me the other day that critics view films intellectually while an audience views a film emotionally. I think there’s some truth in that some films you know aren’t “art” or great, but it doesn’t matter, they spoke to you and you loved it anyway. I like that. I need movies to make me feel. 🙂
I absolutely love what you just said. You some up my rating system perfectly. I try very hard to rate movies both intellectually and emotionally. I attempt to recognize the technical aspects of the film but I never want to forget why I go to the movies to begin with. Things like fun factor or emotional connectivity play big parts in the scores and reviews I give. Personally I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. I think that’s why sometimes my scores clash with others. 😉
I first saw Clémence Poésy and liked her a lot in ‘In Bruges’.
Amazing review! I never heard of the film but Í’m a big fan of Michael Caine and I like how you wrote this so I will definitely check this one out!
Fantastic! Thank you very much. I don’t think many people have heard of this film but I was drawn to it for several reasons. It’s definitely worth checking out. There are some narrative issues that become pretty obvious but there is a lot of heart at the center of the story which I really responded to.
I hope you get to see it and you’ll let me know what you think.
This film reminds me an awful lot like Lost in Translation, an amazing film.
It’s similar just in that these are two searching people who form an unlikely relationship. Otherwise it is quite different. As I mentioned elsewhere, it has a bit more melodrama and hits a few speed bumps. But I loved the two main characters which helped me get past those things.
Hope you will check it out and tell me what you think. It’s a little known film from last year.
I wasn’t even aware of “Last Love” until I read your review but Michael Caine is well past the point of needing to gain my respect. In fact I need no further information about any film he’s in, because if he’s in it I’ll watch it.
To see his name on a film’s poster, or a cast listing, or in a bloggers review, gives me all the reason I need to deem a film worth seeing.
Nice job Keith.
Fantastic. Then I feel my job is done. This is a little known film that slipped through last year. It isn’t great but the two leads are so good and I latched onto them really quick.
Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll get a chance to see it soon.
Excellent review Keith! This sounds like something I’d enjoy. LOVE Michael Caine and this sounds like a good role for him. I like Posey in In Bruges but haven’t seen her in anything else since.
Thank you Ruth. I quite liked the movie even though there are some noticeable story issues especially in the second half. But it was impossible for me not to love the two main characters. I hope you get a chance to see you soon. Didn’t know you were a big fan of Caine. If you like him I think you will like his work here.
Thanks for the recommendation Keith, I missed this one last year but obviously need to catch up with it. I’m a huge fan of Michael Caine and I think he’s producing some of his finest work later in life. I’m looking forward to seeing this.
Fantastic! It will require you to navigate a few narrative bumps in the road. But I just hooked onto the two main characters and really cared about them. I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much. Hope you get to see you soon.
As a fan of French cinema or movies made in France this one was on my radar. I finally caught up with it On Demand. Haven’t seen it anywhere else though.
I’m currently reading Michael Caine’s second autobiography (I’ve nearly finished it) and have to say it doesn’t surprise me to hear he’s made this in France. There’s a tendency for him to choose films that are shooting in places he wants to visit (hence why he did Jaws 4 in the Bahamas!).
…but, wow, is this film difficult to track down! Not out on DVD in the UK but will hopefully be released under it’s “Mr Morgan…” name later this year.
It certainly didn’t get much hype and its distribution was very limited. I was really surprised to find it On Demand. Hopefully you’ll get to catch it soon.
I hadn’t even heard of this one, man. I must keep my eyes peeled for it. Sounds good.
It is a good movie. Not a lot of press for it but it really connected with me. It has some issues with the Tory particularly in the second half. Are you a Michael Caine fan?
For years I was always a naysayer when it came to Caine. I always thought he was overrated but admittedly started to warm to him when I seen him in some great roles like “Get Carter” and “Blood and Wine”. There’s quite a few more but those are the first ones that spring to mind.
Interesting take on him and much similar to mine. I’ve asked others this question and many are big fans. I’ve always thought he was okay but he never blew me away or grabbed my attention until later in his career.
Nice write-up. You’ve definitely sparked my interest on this one and I’m looking forward to checking it out.
That sounds great. Others have said they are having a hard time finding it. I was finally able to find it On Demand. It’s an elusive one. If you catch up with it let me know what you think. It’s not perfect but the two lead characters are so likable.
Yeah I’ll definitely have a look and see if I can get hold of it.