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    Last Night

    Waiting for the end of the world

    This is the way the world ends — with a bang of one sort or another for most of the characters in the funny and poignant Canadian film "Last Night."


    I have this theory about Canadian movies, which is really a theory about American movies and the American mind: Americans use violence as a substitute for emotions. Canadians don't.

    Written and directed by: Don McKellar.
    Cast: Don McKellar, Sandra Oh, Callum Keith Rennie, David Cronenberg, Sarah Polley, Genevieve Bujold.
    In English and French with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site
    So when Hollywood makes a movie about the end of the world, it comes in the form of conniving terrorists, invading aliens, hurtling meteors or even stomping reptiles, and it's up to our muscley, well-armed hero to shoot the evildoers down. When Canadian Don McKellar makes a movie about the destruction of the world, the end is caused by . . . well, we don't know what it's caused by. It's just coming, everybody knows it, and the question is, what does this knowledge bring out in the human psyche? How do we spend our last night on earth?

    To answer this question, the movie "Last Night" — made as part of a project by directors from several countries to address the new millennium — assembles a talented who's who of Canadian film.

    Don McKellar

      Writer/director Don McKellar (who wrote and appeared in "The Red Violin" and "Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould") plays a forlorn widower who's decided he's perfectly happy to sit alone on his rooftop with Mahler on the stereo and a nice bottle of champagne.

    Sandra Oh

       Sandra Oh (star of "Double Happiness," a favorite on IFC) goes shopping (actually, just picking up remnants from unattended store shelves) so she can rejoin her husband Cronenberg at home and face the end in joint defiance. But she turns frantic when chaos on the street prevents her from getting home.

    Callum Keith Rennie

       Callum Keith Rennie ("Double Happiness" and the great TV show "Due South," now on TNT) does what some of you are already thinking — has a lot of sex. Now that all of our inhibitions are moot, he has no trouble finding willing partners. "Just use the Internet," he explains. "That's what they made it for."

    Genevieve Bujold

       Genevieve Bujold ("Coma," "Anne of the Thousand Days" and my favorite "A Paper Wedding"), who has a subtly but wickedly funny part as one of Rennie's flings.

    David Cronenberg

       David Cronenberg (director of "Videodrome," "Naked Lunch" and "Crash") goes dutifully to work at the gas company to call every customer and assure them that there will be no interruption of service up to the end.

    Sarah Polley

       Sarah Polley ("The Sweet Hereafter") and her husband go join the riotous, partying masses in the streets.

    Part of the fun of "Last Night" is seeing how people use their last hours. Young mobs take to the street, mostly to party as if counting down the new year, but also to take advantage of the end of civilization. They overturn cars and some thrill-seekers wander around shooting people — and who's to stop them? The government has become irrelevant and the victims are about to die anyway.

    And yet, true to their stereotype, many of these Canadians maintain a sense of propriety (if not sobriety) as they seek some final fulfillment. Everyone finds some personal way to spend the end, including a tense, stunning, unforgettable finish by the lead characters. But my other favorite is a minor character who takes over a concert hall and gives the piano recital he never got a chance to give in normal life. His surprising music provides a handful of listeners a transcendent serenade for the end of the world.

    In the end, a film that began light and irony-filled has grown tremendously in intensity. The final countdown — when people presumably are doing the things that most define them, in their infinite variety, as human beings — is as exhilarating as a great action movie, yet every fast-moving second is packed with significance. It's an amazing expression of our humanity.

    NOVEMBER 6, 1999

    Reader comments on Last Night:

  • Don McKellar Scores an Insightful Hit   from Steven Schreck, Oct 17, 2000
  • Last Night Review   from Fredric Fletcher, Dec 10, 2002
  • Re: Last Night Review   from Judith, Jan 26, 2003
  • Re: Last Night Review   from Jenny, May 19, 2003
  • Re: Last Night Review   from phillip, May 25, 2003
  • Re: Last Night Review   from Eric, Aug 4, 2003
  • Re: Last Night Review   from guy, Apr 11, 2004
  • Re: Last Night Review   from Doug, Apr 16, 2004
  • Re: Last Night Review   from Steven, Aug 17, 2004
  • Re: Last Night Review   from Bob, Sep 25, 2004
  • Re: Last Night Review   from Tom, Feb 10, 2007

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