|Copyright 2005 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
|The Last Day (Le Dernier jour)
Of all the films I saw at the 2005 NewFest, I have to rank this one
as something of a disappointment. THE LAST DAY (LE DERNIER
JOUR) contains some fine performances, but writer-director Rodolphe
Marconi’s drama about family secrets tended to meander a bit.
Art student Simon (Gaspard Ulliel) is on his way home for Christmas
vacation when he encounters a stranger on the train. Louise (Mélanie
Laurent) asks him for a cigarette and soon is sharing his compartment.
Before he knows it, she is accompanying him to his parents’ seaside
cottage for the holidays.
Louise’s presence does nothing to cut the tension at the seaside
cottage. Simon’s sister Alice (Alysson Paradis) is surly and resentful of
his presence. His father (Christophe Malavoy) barely acknowledges him.
Only his mother Marie (Nicole Garcia) seems genuinely happy to see him.
Simon reconnects with Mathieu (newcomer Thibault Vinçon) and
there are hints that the pair have shared something in the past, but it
isn’t clearly articulated in the film. Louise complicates their relationship
by favoring Mathieu, despite sleeping platonically with Simon.
Meanwhile, Marie is dealing with the return of ex-lover (Bruno
Todeschini) who appears to want to rekindle their affair. He also brings
some disturbing news that calls into question a lot of Marie’s
The plot tagline at the Internet Movie Database reads “a man's return
home is offset by his unrequited love for another man,” yet the
relationship between Simon and Mathieu only sparks in one scene:
after a night of drinking, Louise kisses both men and then tells them
to kiss one another and Mathieu responds by planting a passionate
one on Simon. Other than that, the two only speak of the past and
how their relationship has changed, yet they don’t really spell out what
the relationship was. Indeed, Simon appears to be falling in love with
Louise and he’s jealous of her relationship with Mathieu.
The film’s twist is a doozy, one that makes perfect sense in
hindsight, but Marconi takes so long getting to the reveal that interest
wanes. His direction veers wildly from extraneous shots of characters
driving down deserted roads (often at night) to a bizarre intercutting of
scenes of Marie with her lover and Simon swimming laps.
I realize that not every movie shown at a film festival is going to be
superlative, but given the high quality of the other films I’d seen at this
year’s NewFest, I was less than impressed with THE LAST DAY.
Viewed at NewFest 2005 at the Loews State Theater