Last Night

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“Last Night,” written and directed by Massy Tadjedin is an indie movie about a New York couple’s struggles with marital fidelity. Joanna (Keira Knightley) is a frustrated novelist making a living freelancing. Her husband, Michael (Sam Worthington) works in a real estate company.  With the normal angst of dangling conversations, clumsy misunderstandings and visceral jealousy in a modern marriage, they are relatively content together. It helps that they are willing to fight and able to talk through things. In the first scene, after Joanna watched Michael’s co-worker, Laura (Eva Mendes), flirted with him at an office party, she and Michael argue about flirtation and infidelity. Like the movie they cannot agree on what define them.

While Michael is away on a business trip, Joanna runs into Alex (Guillaume Canet), with whom she had a love encounter while in France. While getting ready to meet Alex, she shows all the apparent signs of adulterous inclination. She changes dresses several times. She takes long to paint her face and picks the right shoes. Over drinks, they playfully converse while waiting for dinner with Alex’s friends. Both flirt with their eyes and words, and invite intimacy within the  narrow space between their bodies. Obviously both enjoy each other’s clever intelligence,  flirtatious implication and opened hiddenness. If the older etymology of “making love” means to have a romantic conversation, Joanna and Alex are making love.

While Joanna is with Alex and his friends, Michael is having dinner with Laura and colleagues. Their eyes are all over each other. After dinner, they find their way to the nearest bar and over a drink, they talk about nothing. Actually they spend few spoken words. Much of their feelings are hidden but in plain view. They trade more with their longing eyes. Soon, they are in their underwear in the hotel pool. Before the night is gone, they are in bed in her hotel room. If the newer etymology of “making love” means to have sexual intercourse, then Michael and Laura are making love.

Has Joanna cheated on her husband with her heart? Has Michael cheated his body? Adultery has many nuances, from romantic conversations to sexual intercourse and every variations in between. Joanna and Michael’s cheating seems to suggest that men and women’s needs are different. And they respond to extramarital temptations differently. Adultery occurs when inclination to cheat clashes with opportunities to cheat. Without one, the other makes not infidelity.

Men’s natural inclination for sex is only waiting for opportunity, in or outside of marriage. There is little conversation between Laura and Michael. Much of their conversations are brief with few actual words. Much of what they communicate is with their longing physicality. Laura is sexy and offers an opportunity to Michael’s inclination. Women incline to have sexual encounters only when an opportunity has certain elements, like romantic notions or emotive attractions. Joanna enjoys Alex’s company because she enjoys his charming and witty conversations. He conjures Joanna’s inclination love interest by entreating her emotive longings.   

“Last Night” hints at the nuances of adultery with women and men. It is an entertaining movie that deals with a thorny subject intelligently. The realization remains that both Joanna and Michael in their own ways have an affair during that last night.