Blu-ray Review: Last Love (2013)

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Michael Caine stars as retired professor of philosophy Matthew Morgan in the romantic drama Last Love. This low-key gem is now available on Blu-ray, having bypassed U.S. cinemas entirely. It’s a quite, meditative film, directed with great subtlety by Sandra Nettelbeck (who also scripted). Though Caine struggles a bit with an awkward American accent, his graceful performance carries great emotional gravity.

Matthew has just lost his wife, Joan (Jane Alexander), to cancer. The two were living in Paris. Matthew’s entire existence revolved around his beloved partner and her absence has cast him adrift. He’s estranged from his adult children (who live in the U.S.) and spends his time wandering around Paris, half-heartedly looking for a hobby. He bumps into a dance instructor named Pauline (Clémence Poésy) and the two become unlikely friends.

Anyone queasy at the prospect of an 80-year-old man embarking on a physical relationship with a 31-year-old can rest easy. That’s not the direction Last Love takes, but it’s certainly the first thought Matthew’s son, Miles (Justin Kirk), has when he arrives in Paris. His father has landed in the hospital after an attempt to “self-medicate” goes awry. Miles and his sister Karen (Gillian Anderson) try to understand who this young French woman is, with the uncouth Karen even referring to Pauline as a bimbo. “The next time you call her that will be the last time we speak,” Matthew solemnly informs her. The kids realize he’s serious, but while the flighty Karen has no real interest in digging deeper, Miles wants to figure out what’s behind this relationship.

Last Love dinner.jpgAs it turns out, there’s quite an innocent reason behind Matthew’s attraction to Pauline. He’s lonely. Spending time with Pauline helps alleviate his depression. Pauline, on the other hand, lost her parents at a young age and sees Matthew as a surrogate father. Both Caine and Poésy find just the right tone for their characters—restrained, yet hardly hiding their emotionally-damaged cores. Kirk is also excellent, masking his true feelings with a frosty exterior that never quite melts. His interactions with both his father and his father’s new companion are realistic. Gillian Anderson fans take note: her performance is quite brief and amounts to little more than an extended cameo.

RLJ Entertainment’s Blu-ray presentation is solid, with Michael Bertl’s cinematography looking sharp. Last Love was shot on 35mm film and there’s a consistent, unobtrusive layer of fine grain to prove it. The color palette is quite neutral overall (perhaps even bland), a perfect reflection of the characters’ controlled, even-tempered psyches. As such, the 1080p transfer doesn’t have much to show off, though the Parisian cityscapes look fine. There’s little to say about the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, other than noting that the dialogue is crystal clear and Hans Zimmer’s light score is well balanced.

Last Love Gillian Anderson.jpgSpecial features include a reel of deleted scenes that runs about 15 minutes. Only one, expanding on Pauline’s backstory, would’ve truly benefited the film had it been included. There’s also about nine minutes of outtakes. More often than not, gag reels accompany comedies and are backed by up-tempo pop music—basically straining to demonstrate how much fun the cast and crew had. It’s definitely noteworthy to see flubs made during the making of a serious drama and this one features some amusing goofs.

Last Love isn’t a major artistic statement for anyone involved. But its melancholic exploration of the day-to-day activities of a widower, yearning to be with his wife once again, is effective and well worth seeking out.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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