Drama doesn't get much more basic than the dilemma set up in Last Night, a tale of marital distrust and uneasiness that played at last year's Toronto Film Festival and is being released in low-key fashion this week.
This is a minimal release, despite the fact that the film stars Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington, two actors who qualify as movie stars at this moment in time. Pirates of the Caribbean, Avatar -- hits don't get much bigger. And yet these two are starring in a movie whose release screams "indy art film."
Which is a good thing. It's nice to see an intelligent film about adult relationships and the ways that jealousy and insecurity can shred what is otherwise a solid connection between two people.
Knightley and Worthington play Joanna and Michael, a married couple of ex-pats in New York, first seen quibbling after a party at which Michael seems to flirt (and be flirted with) with a gorgeous colleague of his, Laura (Eva Mendes); Joanna is concerned that there is something going on between Laura and Michael. He assures her that's not the case and all is well. For the moment.
Then Michael is sent out of town on a business trip with Laura -- and things get tempting. Joanna, meanwhile, gets a phone call out of the blue from an old lover (Guillaume Canet) and agrees to have dinner with him and some of his friends. Sparks seem inevitable here as well.
And that's the whole movie: two people in a committed relationship, out separately with alluring partners. How do you resist? What does it mean if you don't? And who's to know if you give in (other than your guilty conscience)?
What's outstanding about Massy Tadjedin's film is that she leaves it up to the audience to decide: What constitutes cheating? Is it sleeping with someone else -- or is it even putting yourself in a situation where that kind of misstep is a possibility? Intimacy is a complex thing; in a committed relationship, it's also an exclusive thing, theoretically. How far can you go without crossing the line? And what happens when you do?
It's all handled in a gratifyingly unhurried fashion that is short on emotional pyrotechnics and long on thoughtful, provocative moments that make you truly think through the situation and put yourself in the protagonists' places.
Knightley and Worthington are both outstanding; subtle, nuanced, capturing the push-pull that each of them goes through. They're both sentient adults, aware of the path they're treading and where it leads -- and aware that it travels in both directions (in other words, instead of walking into something, they can also walk away).
Last Night has a European feel, or perhaps it's the patience and daring of a film from the 1970s that it reminds me of. It's another one of those little films that will barely get released (though it's available through video-on-demand). Find it and watch it.