At the stroke of midnight, the world is going to end. With time running out, a crazy group of big-city dwellers is determined to go out with a bang. Terminally shy guy Patrick Wheeler (Don McKellar) lets a beautiful stranger (Sandra Oh) use his phone and quickly makes a love connection. Craig, his over-sexed best friend, auditions half the girls in town for the ultimate one night stand — and winds up with his former French teacher. And while a droning gas company representative calls every last customer to sincerely thank them for their patronage, everyone else goes wild in the streets. It’s the party to end all others when one man’s romantic rebirth collides with the last night on earth.
Last Night 9.0
If you knew the date and time of the end of the world, what would YOU do on your last day?
‘Last Night’ takes us into the final six hours of humanity’s existence through the eyes of a few key characters and a handful of secondary ones, all somehow related in a six-degrees of Kevin Bacon kind of way.
There are two major characters, played by Don McKellar and Sandra Oh. McKellar plays a man who just wants to end his life in seclusion, alone, with nothing and no one to interfere in the final moments. Meanwhile, Sandra is on her way home to her husband when her car gets demolished, and she desperately tries to get back to him.
Meanwhile, Callum Keith Rennie plays a man who wants to have sex on his last breath. David Cronenberg (yes, THAT Cronenberg! ) plays a career man who diligently calls all his clients to reassure them that his company will keep the gas running til the end. In fact, the first thing we see is McKellar lying down, waiting for the final 6 hours of life to wind down, hearing Cronenberg rambling on his answering machine in the background. It’s an absurd and hilarious moment that completely sets the tone for the next 90 mins.
There are so many delightfully funny bits in this film. McKellar’s interactions with his family are a delirious joy. His mother insists on having a final Christmas together and everyone tries to indulge her, but McKellar’s a little less enthused and it causes a few tensions. I laughed out loud watching this. His sister is played by the ever-enjoyable Sarah Polley – she and her boyfriend have decided to go downtown and watch the end of the world with the rest of ther masses.
It’s a virtual “who’s who” of Canadian cinema, really. Even Cronenberg’s assistant, who has secretly been pining for him is played by an actress I recognize from a few Canadian films (‘When Night is Falling’ and ‘The Five Senses’, for instance). We even get a cameo from the breathtaking Geneviève Bujold. I remember when I first saw this, 7-8 years ago: I couldn’t believe that she was in this film and I remained fixated for the duration of her short stint on screen.
There are also a couple of interesting minor characters that float in and out, like a piano player who is preparing for his concert debut at a great big hall he’s always wanted to play in, and a wired woman who is running incessantly through town counting down ’til midnight. She is both scary and funny, a doomsday prophet who looks like a meth addict, interrupting everyone in the middle of their personal festivities with sober punctuations.
All around these characters, people are dealing with the end of the world in their own way. Some are rioting, doing damage to property for no real reason other than because they can, some are at peace and casually spending time with friends and family, others are celebrating as though it were a New Year’s Eve celebration, …etc. Bizarrely, the streets are pretty empty, but there is mention that people started getting sick and dying at some point, so I suspect that there’s a reduced number of them left.
It’s not clear why it’s the end of the world, how it was discovered, and what truly happened after this realization (there is mention of government falling apart by one character, even if the news seem to suggest otherwise), but it’s not really important – it’s all about the human interactions, not about the event. All we’re told is that they’ve known for about two months that the end of the world was coming. As well, we see that it’s getting brighter as they get closer to midnight, suggesting a supernova or something of the sort. That’s it. And that’s all we need.
Frankly, I find this film PHENOMENAL!!! It’s funny, tragic, moving and thought-provoking all at once. It’s such a brilliant script, that I can’t believe that it hasn’t won tons of awards or at least garnered more attention – especially in light of when it was released: in 1998, a year before the Millenium Bug which many had hysterically predicted would bring about the end of civilization as we know it. It was so timely and so brilliantly executed, so perfect for its time.
It’s not really exceptional stylistically (one has to remember that it’s a Canadian production and, thus, probably had a limited budget spread over the whole film), but McKellar directed this one with a sure hand. It’s a real tour de force, quite frankly, considering that he wrote, directed AND starred in this. I can’t imagine that he’ll ever match this opus, even though he frequently creates memorable characters (Twitch City/Exotica/When Night Falls), writes terrific scripts (The red Violin/Twitch City/Highway 61), …etc.
It’s a real shame that the film was released in a bare-bones DVD without even an anamorphic picture. A real shame. And the darned thing deserves at least an audio commentary with McKellar, if not one with the cast and crew, behind the scenes features, interviews with the people involved, …etc. It’s a movie that deserves to be explored in depth and I’m astounded that, over 12 years later, this film is just a blip on the radar.
If I knew the date and time of the end of the world, what would I do on my last day? I’ve long wondered, actually.
Perhaps that’s why this movie struck me the way that it did. However, if not for McKellar’s amazing script, the genius cast, and the very strong direction and production, it would only have been a great concept that left me unfulfilled. In ‘Last Night’ I’ve found pretty much everything I would have wanted out of such a film.