“There are fewer things more depressing than empty coat hangers”
This emotive drama sets it tone with opening shots of Matthew Morgan (Michael Caine) shortly after the loss of his beloved wife to cancer. What follows is an honest and often melancholic look at grief, family relationships and the potential power of human connections.
We rejoin Matthew a few years later where he remains well within the grip of bereavement, in a futile existence of struggling to get through the day. As an American living in Paris, he speaks no French and is lost without his late wife. A chance encounter on public transport with the young and beautiful Parisian Pauline (Clémence Poésy) breaks Matthew’s daily monotony and provides a ray of sunshine in his life. The pair of lost souls become close and begin to provide each other with emotional security that they’ve been craving.
It is pointless to try and label their relationship, although as an audience member that’s inevitably what you do, as do their children when they arrive from the U.S. After a fleeting appearance from daughter Karen (Gillian Anderson), the mystery of their father’s new companion is the film’s main source of tension and forces son Miles (Justin Kirk) to face up to some family differences.
With the film’s deliberately ambiguous title, Pauline becomes an ‘unwelcome distraction’ in the father and son’s lives. The depth of the connections between the leads means that in the second half their everyday lives and emotional inner-monologues seem to cease to exist.
Our trio’s emotional turmoil is set to a backdrop of a beautiful Parisian autumn, just with perhaps one too many shots of the Eiffel tower. Performances are strong, sadly with the exception of Caine’s Amercian accent, which has his unmistakable mother-tongue creeping in.
The film won’t be to everyone’s taste and could easily be dismissed as too sentimental. However, it does give an unconventional insight into the reality of grief and our emotional reliance on the kindness of other human beings.
Based on the novel by Françoise Dorner and brought to the screen by German film-maker Sandra Nettelbeck.
Reviewed by Lucy Pickering.
Mr Morgan’s Last Love opens in New Zealand cinemas on 28 November 2013.