Writer-director Massy Tadjedin explores how delicate a thing marriage is and the variety of ways in which men and women strain the bond of their vows in “Last Night,” her new film starring Sam Worthington and Keira Knightley as a couple who spend a night apart during which they each find themselves tempted by the fruit of another.
The trouble between Joanna and Michael Reed (Knightley and Worthington) begins when they attend a cocktail party, where Joanna first becomes aware of Michael’s new-ish stone-fox of a co-worker, Laura (Eva Mendes). Even after three months of working together, including a trip to Los Angeles, Michael never once mentions Laura, much less that she’s really, really good looking. (Here’s a little heads up for the fellas out there: You can mention to your wife that you’ve got an attractive new co-worker without coming off like a skeevy perv).
Upon arriving back at their SoHo loft, Michael asks Joanna, “What’s wrong?” getting a terse “Nothing” in response. Sniping and accusations fly, with Joanna going as far as to grab a blanket and head for the couch. But Michael talks her off the ledge just before heading off to Philadelphia for a business trip—with Laura.
As luck would have it, while Michael’s with Laura riding the train down to Philly, Joanna bumps into an old flame who's in town from Paris, Alex (Guillame Canet), who insists she join him and his friends for dinner. From there we spend the rest of the film bouncing back and forth between Philly and New York, as each of the Reeds inches closer to infidelity.
Tadjedin offers a balanced look emotional infidelity vs. physical infidelity (think real hard and see if you can guess which spouse is tempted to commit which), genuinely not framing one as worse than the other. Which is a nice sentiment until you try to imagine telling your spouse, “But, Honey, I only had sex with her! It’s not like we cuddled or wrote each other poems!”
But the whole affair feels a little flat. There’s almost zero chemistry between Worthington and Mendes, with the former coming off as a stammering teen and the latter having played way sexier in “The Other Guys.” It seems almost impossible that these couldn’t generate any heat, and yet…
Meanwhile, back in New York, the proceedings are helped a great deal by the presence of Griffin Dunne and Stephanie Romanov as Alex’s friends, Truman and Sandra, with whom he and Laura have dinner. Dunne is great as a prying and presumptuous man who tries to force Joanna to consider what she’s doing and where her heart is.
Maybe the most perfect moment of “Last Night” is the final one, when Joanna and Michael are reunited and must confront anew the state of their marriage, but it’s not quite enough.
"Last Night" is showing at the Tribeca Film Festival April 26 & 28, before going into limited release May 6