LAST LOVE Movie Review: Wanders Aimlessly Through Grief, Love, and Connection
Adapted from Françoise Dorner’s novel La Douceur Assassine, Last Love begins with the perturbed, mournful cries of retired philosophy professor Matthew Morgan (Michael Caine) after the death of his beloved wife Joan (Jane Alexander). Unfortunately for the viewer, the pace barely budges for the next 116 minutes.
Spending most of his hours wandering around his looming Paris apartment, Matthew leaves only occasionally to have lunch with a friend. Often he finds himself sitting on park benches recalling the ghost of his deceased wife, speaking to her slowly, sadly. When he does interact with a local, he speaks in English. Despite his lengthy stay in Paris, he has yet to really learn French, and when he bothers to try his pronunciation is so gratingly off you wish he hadn’t.
The pulse of the film quickens slightly when Matthew meets Pauline (Clémence Poésy), a young, subtly buoyant dance teacher who teaches the cha-cha, mostly to elderly dancers. Though Pauline is with someone, there is clearly something that continues to pull her and Matthew together. Yet, despite their desire for closeness, their time together is inevitably fleeting.
Director Sandra Nettelback, best known for her 2002 romantic comedy Mostly Martha, shifts Last Love from a vague story of loss and connection to one of family drama. After Matthew halfheartedly tries to kill himself and lands in the hospital, his adult children, Miles (Justin Kirk) and Karen (Gillian Anderson), rush to see him. Callous in her interactions, Karen eventually leaves. When beautiful Pauline shows up, Miles accuses her of trying to snake her way in to their father’s will.
A magnificent actor in his own right, Caine is perhaps the biggest reason Last Love feels so unconvincing. Every word out of his mouth hovers lifelessly, purposelessly, in front of scenery so dreary you can’t help but check back in with your watch every five minutes.
As Rex Reed said in the New York Observer, “You don’t want a sequel to this one.”