Don McKellar's "Last Night." End-of-the-World movies don't get any better.

Okay, I just screened this movie for the fifth time in as many years (three of which have been in the past few weeks) and I’m curious to know how (or if) it is received outside of Canada. If you don’t know, it’s a little movie that follows a few Torontonians during the last few hours before some undefined astronomical catastrophe wipes out all life on earth. At the beginning of the film, the impending end of the world is a foregone conclusion which people have (more or less) come to terms with.

For me, this is a damned near perfect movie. Both McKellar and Sandra Oh turned in key performances that are understated yet incredibly affecting, and the supporting cast is made up of some spectacular talents who cheerfully turned up to hit their marks for relatively small roles – the peerless Geneviève Bujold plays the protagonist’s old schoolteacher who drops by for a… visit, the remarkable Arsinée Khanjian plays a mother who’s gone tharn on an abandoned TTC streetcar, Jackie Burroughs as a manic jogger, David Cronenberg as a gas company executive who takes customer service very seriously, and on and on…


This is where I imagine a chorus of non-Canadian voices going “Buh… who?” Okay, Cronenberg probably has some recognition — and Don McKellar probably rings a bell for serious film types — but I’m guessing the roster doesn’t really draw the eye much outside the frozen north.

…except now that the world at large is slowly starting to recognize to some degree how abso-fucking-lutely awesome Sandra Oh is, of course.

Anyway, any of y’all had the opportunity to see Last Night? Ever heard of it?

I can’t make up my mind whether it’s “too Canadian” to have much in the way of international appeal or not. Yeah, it’s pretty saturated – but on the other hand, the broad strokes of the movie are pretty universal – how we deal with the awareness of our own mortality and yadda yadda yadda. I’m curious to know.

Me, I’m blown away every time. Every note is perfect – from grim hysteria, surreal irony, and broad farce to existential terror, mundane tragedy, and touching optimism. There are a couple of scenes that make me lose my shit over and over again, no matter how I try to prepare for them. (Sandra Oh. Jesus, she can do a number on me.)

I’m also curious about what you might think about David Cronenberg’s character.Are we meant to understand that he was Sandra’s new husband?I’ve argued yes and no on this one. After the fifth viewing, I’m pretty sure that it’s “yes,” but it’s still so cussed ambiguous.

I saw it when it came to HIFF (The Hawaii Internation Film Festival) which looks to have been in late 1999. I enjoyed it but can’t remember too much about it. Except the French teacher.

My only complaint was that I didn’t think things would be like that. Although that might just be because I wasn’t able to identify with anyone in the movie. In other words they were all doing stuff that I didn’t think I would be doing. Not that I really have any inkling what I would be doing were my death and everyone else’s guaranteed.

I do recall at least one other thread on that movie in the last 5 years. Not sure that it got too many replies though.

Southern Californian native here. I first discovered this movie on the Independant Film Channel maybe about four years ago? I thought the movie was incredibly beautiful film and as a matter of fact I own the DVD!

I bought the DVD after reading a few reviews that made me believe that it could be my sort of film. I really like it a lot.

I don’t think it is too Canadian, although I am South African, not American, so maybe that changes the dynamics. The reactions seem fairly universal to me and I think it is clever to have the end of the world as this background and assumed event where everyone already knows about it.

I had absolutely no idea who any of the people involved in this film were before I saw it, so it came completely out of the blue from my point of view. Definately my favourite end of the world movie, although I admit I have seen few. An additional question: Any recommendation of films that explore the same theme?

Haven’t seen it but now I will. It looks interesting.

Having not seen Last Night yet, I don’t know exactly what the theme is, but in terms of end of the world movies I can offer these:

The Quiet Earth, in which a guy wakes up to find that everybody has disappeared. It’s not exactly the same theme, but is end-of-world-ish.

There’s When Worlds Collide, which is more of an oldie but goodie straight-up Sci-Fi flick.

More recently there’s Deep Impact, which I think is generally hated, but is one of my guilty pleasure movies.

And the classic On The Beach.

It’s been on my Netflix queue ever since I asked about it in [thread=364957]this thread[/thread]. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be available in DVD yet. I might have to look for it on VHS in the local indie video store.

I’m Canadian, so this doesn’t help your survey, but I’d also like to chime in and say that I think this film is about 15 different shades of brilliant. I have successfully convinced some of my American friends to watch it and love it though.

An American chiming in to say that I watched the movie last year and absolutely loved it. Very moving on a lot of levels. Larry Mudd, I came to the same conclusion you did and I was very glad that Sandra never got home to him.

I rented the DVD from after reading about it on the Dope (I looked for it on Netfix first, but as Larry Borgia says they don’t have it in stock).

Saw it in London when it got a UK release to uniformly good reviews.

Didn’t strike me as in any way limited by being Canadian. Did strike me as a nice idea, well executed.

One of my favourite movies of all time-- I try to bring it up whenever a ‘hidden gems’ movie thread gets started.

From a review by Roger Ebert:

'On a talk show in Toronto, I was asked to define the difference between American and Canadian films, and said I could not. Another guest was Wayne Clarkson, the former director of the Toronto Film Festival. He said he could, and cited this film. “Sandra Oh goes into a grocery story to find a bottle of wine for dinner,” he said.

“The store has been looted, but she finds two bottles still on the shelf. She takes them down, evaluates them, chooses one, and puts the other one politely back on the shelf. That’s how you know it’s a Canadian film.”’

(Later on, I actually did see Ebert define the difference using this very film and Armageddon)

I’ve never heard of this movie, but based on this thread I may go out to find it.

Yep, great movie. And definitely Canadian; toward the end, I wonder if cities south of the border – Detroit, Buffalo, etc. – are engulfed in flames. (We in the U.S. like to go out with a bang.)

As for David Cronenberg, I don’t remember the details, but I had no doubt he was Sandra Oh’s husband. I thought that’s why she was crying so hard when she heard his voice on the protagonist’s answering machine – thanking him for his business as a customer of the gas company.

The only reason I haven’t bought this movie on DVD is that, inexplicably, it’s only available in a pan & scan version. Why?

I saw this movie when I was living in Wisconsin. I heard about it, from all places, from the movies section in Playboy. Living proof that I read the articles at least once.

I think it’ one of those movies that tends to attract peoplewho like character studies, Canadian or not. I liked it until the final scene. Then I loved it.

Excellent film. I’m going to rent it again.

I loved this film. I first heard about it here on the Dope, though I can’t remember the topic; it had something to do with Canadian film.

Last Night fits perfectly into my favorite unofficial artistic genre: Works that deal with supernatural events in utterly realistic, non-supernatural fashion. Others include Touch, Crimes and Misdemeanors (sort of), The Metamorphosis, and Brueghel’s “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.”

As for its being distinctively Canadian, I’d say yes, though I can’t quite pinpoint why; there’s a certain tone to Canadian films (and music) that’s easy to spot but hard to name. This isn’t always a good thing; Rush’s music is obviously Canadian, and I can’t stand it. But again, I dearly, totally love Last Night.

It does have one clear, objective indicator of a Canadian film, though: Don McKellar is in it. He seems to be in every single Canadian film ever made, from Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould to Exotica (and Highway 61 of course). Can’t miss Don McKellar.

That would be this thread – I missed it the first time around.

[spoiler]There have been times when I thought it could have easily have just been the sheer absurdity of her absolutely vital communication being stymied by something so utterly trivial, underlining how ridiculous it was that Cronenberg’s character stayed completely absorbed in his ultimately meaningless relationships with strangers instead of connecting in any kind of human way with the woman that he worked with and seemed oblivious to. Besides, he’d left that message before 6:00, completed all his calls, and then went home – he didn’t appear to be planning a double suicide or wondering where is wife was when he got killed.

On the other hand, there were other little suggestions that he was the husband – it’s made clear that his cell isn’t working (although that could be a widespread problem…) For me, the clincher is this. Earlier, when Sandra and Patrick were doing their speed-dating routine and she was listing the things she liked, Sandra said “Ice cream – I could use some right now – strawberry ice cream, straight out of the package.”[/spoiler]

I’m glad that there’s so much love for this film!

Sorry to be so late with this, but I just remembered that there is one movie that remotely compares with Last Night: Roy Andersson’s Sånger Från Andra Båningen (Songs from the Second Floor.)

Like Last Night, Songs from the Second Floor uses millennial tension and matter-of-fact apocalypse as a starting point for a meditation on the human condition. The theme is almost exactly the same: The End of the World stands in for personal mortality and we have a series of passion plays showing how people are so wrapped up in trivial pursuits that they allow themselves to be cut off from their own humanity. As with Last Night, it alternates between absurdly comic and profoundly beautiful.

It’s also a stunning film, visually – every frame is a careful composition, like a Tarkovsky film – but without the epic pans – in fact, the camera never moves at all.

I can’t recommend this movie highly enough – it’s fantastic.

It is funny that you mention this, because Songs From the Second Floor is also in my DVD collection, and is one of my favorites. It had never crossed my mind to compare the two, but now that you mention it I definately see it.

Oh, and thanks mack for those suggestions. Definately some more additions to my Netflix queue!

Saw it at the Melbourne International Film Festival in 99. (There was a whole selection of pre-millenial tension flicks on the bill that year.) I thought it was a tremendous film, and though there is a certain canadian-ess about it, that is no detriment.

That Ebert review is one of the few times I’ve been disappointed in Ebert. The whole review seemed too condescending about it being Canadian, in a “oh aren’t they quaint” way.