Sandra Nettelbeck's LAST LOVE
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
What an engaging movie this is. Slow, deliberate, and ultimately, complex.
The topic is distinctly noncommercial: a retired American professor living alone in Paris, still nursing the emotional trauma of his wife’s death three years before, is befriended by an energetic but emotionally complex dancing teacher who is younger than his own married daughter.
What follows is much more complex than the term “May December romance” applies. What holds the movie together is Michael Caine’s performance and the director’s refusal to emotionally pander. Caine, the consummate professional actor, throws decades of emotional experiences at this role. I’ll forgive him his wobbly “American” accent. He’s always fun to watch especially when dealing with complex relationships.
Director Nettelbeck dedicates the movie to her own father in the final credits. I have to think some of her own experiences are showing through here.
There are some surprises toward the end that take the film in an unexpected direction. But I’m really pleased that neither the director nor Caine take the film in the direction of portraying a “lovable old coot.” Caine’s character is complex and he has the acting chops to bring it off even in difficult scenes with his character’s children who resent the presence of this young dancing teacher “bimbo” they fear is impinging on their father — and them.
The movie is not without its light touches. In several scenes we see young Pauline’s dancing class. If you’ve ever taken dancing lessons you’ll recognize the feelings of awkwardness and fun. In another scene the camera pans past bookshelves in the old professor’s apartment. Front and center along with family photos we see — just for a second — the framed profile of a bat with outstretched wings; that’s not something one sees in such situations unless it has some significance for the star of the film!
Review copyright (c) 2014 by Dennis D. McDonald