There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in…
He’s an old philosophy professor living in a fine apartment in Saint-Germain-des Pres, Paris. His wife died 3 years, 4 months, and 11 days ago, he says, and it is obvious that he’s not over her passing. While he’s not quite doddering, or a duffer, or even a curmudgeon, he seems to like his solitude which is helped because he has refused to learn how to speak French, which isolates him further.
Or said another way, he’s let himself go to a degree. As for his time, he’s not doing anything special with it, as he’s in what you call the waiting phase. As in waiting to join his wife.
He’s got adult kids who live in the USA. His name is Matthew Morgan and Michael Caine has the role. Depending on where you live, the film is called Last Love, or Mr. Morgan’s Last Love. It came out last November. I watched on Netflix’s streaming service.
The love interest, as referenced in the title, that is, besides Morgan’s deceased wife Joan, who we see in flash backs on occasion, and is played by Jane Alexander, is a young woman called Pauline with the vibrant Clémence Poésy in the role.
They meet on a Paris city bus. As the bus lurches, Morgan stumbles, and falls into a group of folks who while they catch him and prevent him from a full falling off his feet, they give him some choice expletives in French. Young Ms Pauline comes to his aid. She senses he may not be alright and offers to walk him home. Is she a good Samaritan or something far worse?
We don’t know at this point. She is a teacher, off ball-room dancing, with a specialty in the cha-cha, but maybe she’s a gold-digger?
We do get to find out of course. And we shall eventually meet Matthew’s grown children. The stories of these people, both individually as well as collectively do not fit together as nicely as a jig-saw puzzle. There are uneven corners, and pieces that seem both inappropriate as well as foolish.
Matthew is the older man who some times does not want to cling to life. Pauline is also a woman who lacks something. Matthew’s kids are played by Justin Kirk as the son Miles, whose own marriage has gone off the rails and he has yet to tell his father about it. Matthew’s daughter Karen is played by Gillian Anderson, who we all know played Scully on the X-Files. She’s imperious, somewhat insensitive, and her agenda always includes shopping.
There are other women of course. One is Matthew’s housekeeper, and the other is a French widow who Matthew sees for lunch on a regular basis. But these two, are really characters at the edge of the frame. Matthew interacts with them, but these two are a remove from the core of the story.
And what is at the core?
Aging, love, loss, grief, and hope; and the coming to grips with all of the above. Michael Caine and Clemence Poesy as the two leads are wonderful to watch. He is of course, forever looking back at the sunsets that have passed, and she… well she’s looking for sunsets that have yet to happen for her.
They are indeed an odd couple. I use the term ‘couple’ in anything but the usual sense. Poesy is all contained energy, while Caine is energy dissipating. They should be a mismatched pair, and in a sense they are, but you feel compelled to root for them.
Directed and written by Sandra Nettlebeck, the film is an adaption of the novel La Douceur Assassine by Francoise Dorner. The film was shot mostly in Paris and the city looks grand in the fall. You will love the way the reds and golds pop as Matthew visits his wife’s grave which is a cemetery filled with trees and fallen leaves.
I found the film attractive to watch, and compelling. But this is not to say that it doesn’t have some stumbling blocks or pitfalls. Matthew’s kids do change the dynamic of the story. And the story doesn’t have quite the ending that you might expect.
It is also slowly paced. You might easily think the film is dull in places. That would be the case if you are looking for a whirlwind romantic encounter. However this story is relatable. Either you are in your sunset years yourself, or your remaining parent is. We all care about our loved ones and watching them is not always an easy experience. Whether you are an aging parent, or an adult child – the process is the same.
Caine’s character speaks some very key lines in the film. He will say that he didn’t want to become the kind of man his Dad was, yet he became exactly that. Matthew’s son has a similar complaint only it seems inside out. He wanted his father to care for him, and to take wonder in his achievements. Yet the son felt that his Dad saw only the faults, and the flaws, and addressed only these items.
Pauline’s story is murky at best, at least if we want to look for her own back story. But all we learn from her is that she lacked a father figure in her life both then and now.
Yes, it is a complicated story, but it is also a simple story. And the older man and younger woman story is something of a cinematic cliché, as we’ve seen it often enough. B
ut Nettlebeck’s story clearly doesn’t fit into the mold. The reality is that according to Nettlebeck, she changed the story to include Caine as an American. I think this doesn’t quite work as Caine sounds a bit off, at least in terms of a speaking accent, and the story might have retained the same substance if Caine played the role of an Englishman rather than an American.
But that is mostly window dressing. We care about what the characters think, feel and say – and how they say it isn’t as important, at least to me. Yes, I will admit to hearing Caine’s Matthew say thanks in French as Mare-see, wasn’t funny. But it represented Matthew as a solitary man, who while he knows, he might get on better if he attempts to fit in – it isn’t something that he’s willing to work at.
But when you balance that against Matthew saying to Pauline that he ‘s been around long enough to have figured out most of life, but the one thing he hasn’t figured out yet is you, the film’s depth of feeling emerges, and you can toss away almost all of what troubles you about the story.
Check out the trailer:
I’ll rate the film at three-point five, and I’ll recommend it. Available on Netflix streaming, or you can buy the DVD or Blu-Ray where DVDs are sold.