Director: Don McKellar / Screenplay: Don McKellar / Release date: 2 July 1999 (UK)
Actors: Don McKellar, Sandra Oh / Genre: Disaster Film ‧ 1h 35min
It’s amazing what you can accomplish on a budget. Strip away the flash and explosions and you’re often left with humanity.
When it comes to the human race’s last night on earth, humanity should really be the focus.
Made in 1998 this low budget Canadian film, starred and directed by Don McKellar has all but disappeared from retailers. So try not to confuse this with a 2010 film with the exact same name. I suspect that film’s a load of ol’ wank. I mean, that version doesn’t star David Cronenberg, does it!
Popular on UK terrestrial television at “fuck knows what time in the morning”, your best bet for watching Last Night is to recreate those exciting days by staying up till 4am an’ hope for the best, or to use some initiative (wink, wink).
The title of the film is a bit of a giveaway, as the human race gets ready for the end of the world. We follow several humans as they prepare for the end. To tell you what the groups of people get up to would be to ruin the film completely. The film is sweet, cruel and often humorous. The tone feels just right, nothing feels forced nor out of place. The unknown “great event” is coming and grim resignation permeates throughout the film. The acting performances are more then just a collection of cliches. Sandra Oh gives an accomplished performance, whilst Don McKellar is the perfect miserable avatar, as you view the end through his eyes. This is my go-to idea of the end of the world. Not so much in a bang, but a meandering whimper. No, Bruce Willis won’t be smirking through a rock this time.
I’ve often thought about Last Night throughout the years, not just because of the subject matter. As stagnant Hollywood relies on super “franchises” they move further away from the delicate art of storytelling. These days I almost never consider the film Armageddon apart from it’s hilarious music and classic Bruce Willis squinty hero-head.
It’s all very well making fun of Michael Bay. In the past you had the very same “explosion” films and low budget attempts such as Last Night. It’s not the explosion films’ fault. You can’t blame the idiot making popular light-shows, the very same-light shows you already had way back when. You blame the people in charge of making the big decisions. They’ve decided to risk it all for billion dollar pay offs, constantly living in fear of failure. I’ve never understood the abandonment of the low to mid budget film. If one of those “hit”, you’re laughing all the way to the bank. Not everything demands CGI and a haircut. Blaming Michael Bay for the state of the film industry is like blaming your starving cat for dumping a dead mouse in your bed, it’s just what it does and will always do. You blame Hollywood for only giving you starving cats.
Whilst on the subject of film budgets, let’s talk about it in regards to this film. Now this is a weird fact, it doesn’t affect the story at all. Restrictions often bring out the best in a thing. You can’t cover up a plothole with a firework, you best think of a better reason in the first place. When special effects are required (this is, after all, our last night on the planet) they are tasteful, intelligently used and in tone with the story. I used the word story again. Sorry.
Poignancy is often lost on Hollywood. I guess we’ve always got the Oscar-bait. Hooray! That’s not to say you can’t get a Whiplash or a Birdman, but I miss these low key, personal stories made by someone with a clear uninterrupted vision.
If the opportunity arises, check the film out and you might find yourself asking, what would you do on your Last Night?