INDIEWATCH: ‘Last Love’ a bummer of a last act
In “Last Love,” Matthew (Michael Caine) is an English widower living in France. He begrudgingly rises each morning, he resists learning the language and his suicide attempts are sullied by his housekeeper.
Walking through Paris, he imagines holding his wife’s hand and he has conversations with her on a park bench. There’s some poignancy to his heartache, but there’s potential for this to get old real quick.
Enter Pauline (Clemence Poesy).
She’s the fairy who flies to his aid when he trips on the bus. She walks him home, and at that kind encounter, Matthew de-boards his living room shutters to a breathtaking view.
Welcome back to life, Matt.
He meets Pauline again in transit, and Matthew ends up crashing one of her dance classes. (She’s an instructor.)
Cue awkward dance floor antics and adorable glances across the ballroom.
On their third or so meeting, Matthew encourages Pauline to consider university and a hop skip and a jump later, they’re canoeing and waxing philosophical about life.
I couldn’t tell if their connection was sexual, familial or out of mutual loneliness, and I think that’s what writer/director Sandra Nettelbeck was going for. And the question seems to remain unanswered until the very end.
Performances were pretty lackluster. Michael Caine feels tired in this film, and it’s hard to figure if that’s part of the performance or if he’s phoning it in. He’s dropped his delicious Cockney accent and sounds like a muddled cowboy.
Clemence Poesy as Pauline is airy, blond and light. Her doe-eyed levity is almost too aware of itself, and while we’re given a glimpse of character depth during a hangover, she’s pretty one-dimensionally angelic. Justin Kirk (“Weeds” and “Angels in America”) brings a third heat as Matthew’s son, but it’s pretty lukewarm, unfortunately. He does the furrowed brow look a bit often and never really has the chance to unleash, but I’ll chock that up to the screenplay.
Writer/director Nettelbeck has a decent list of films under her belt — “Mostly Martha” and American version, “No Reservations” — but “Last Love” shows she may lack the tools to mix comedy with deep, depressive drama. There were a couple of cringe-worthy, post-suicide music selections that really didn’t jive, and these characters weren’t given much space to shine.
In a pinnacle scene, Matthew and Miles (Kirk) are finally grappling some deep-seeded family issues, and I was raring for my guys to shine. In the middle of it, Nettelbeck cuts to Pauline wandering around the countryside. When we’re brought back to Matt and Miles, they’re past the meat of it and, as a viewer, I felt severely ripped off.
“Last Love” was based off of novel “Mr. Morgan’s Last Love” by Francoise Dorner, and that had to have been the better medium. This film takes the complexities of mourning, death and redemption and whittles it down to size.
Even for a girl who loves Michael Caine, it wasn’t worth it.
Indiewatch is a weekly review of independent films and documentaries available on streaming services Amazon Prime and Netflix. Reach Lavine at firstname.lastname@example.org or (218) 723-5346, read her blog at reeltalk.area voices.com.