Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: The adultery-themed comedy The Other Woman has us thinking back on other films about infidelity.
Last Night (2010)
Most movies dealing with infidelity use it as a jumping-off point—a catalyst for the action. Massy Tadjedin’s Last Night, by contrast, makes careful consideration of moments that could be leading up to an affair. It also somehow avoids becoming a feature-length bit of Woody Allen-style agonizing over whether to take that plunge. Joanna (Keira Knightley) and Michael (Sam Worthington) certainly fit the Allen profile in terms of wealth: He works in real estate, she’s a fashion writer (and part-time novelist), and the elevator door opens directly into their Manhattan high-rise apartment. Early in the film, they attend a party with Michael’s work friends, where Joanna notices his closeness with coworker Laura (Eva Mendes). Later, she confronts him about it; he insists nothing has happened or will happen.
The set-up has a stage-play simplicity, but the camera snakes around as Joanna and Michael glide around the party, then stalks through their apartment, picking up little gestures. After interweaving their actions for this first section, Tadjedin cleaves the film into two stories as Michael heads to Philadelphia on a business trip with Laura and Joanna has a chance meeting with her sort-of ex, Alex (French star and Tell No One director Guillaume Canet). Most of the movie takes place over this long evening—another stagy touch that turns into a cinematic advantage. The cross-cutting emphasizes that Joanna’s encounter takes place largely in public, as she joins Alex for a group dinner, while Michael’s scenes with Laura are mostly one on one. Even as these relationships reveal themselves as very different types of potential affairs, they stay on more or less equally dangerous ground. When a shot of Knightley and Canet slow-dancing together on a roof throws their faces into shadow, there’s real suspense over whether they’ll emerge in a clinch.
Last Night is a slight film, but injected with real feeling. Knightley relies on few of her usual charms; Michelle Williams-style moodiness looks good on her. The Worthington/Mendes side is somewhat less compelling, though it’s a relief to hear both Worthington and Knightley using their real accents. If the movie skews a little sober-minded (Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies treats vaguely similar material with a lot more comedic charm), it’s because both partners’ reasons for wanting and not wanting to cheat are equally knotty and vivid.
Availability: Last Night is available on Blu-ray and DVD, to rent or purchase through the major digital services, and to stream on Netflix.