American Matthew Morgan has been living alone in Paris for three years following the death of his beloved wife, when he meets a charming dance instructor one-third his age that reminds the elderly man of his deceased wife. Sandra Nettelbeck’s Last Love is a languid rumination on death and the isolation of outliving your spouse after decades of marriage, carried by a touching performance from Michael Caine and a spark of energy from the much younger Clémence Poésy.
Matthew Morgan (Michael Caine) lives in Paris though he doesn’t speak the language or show any inclination to learn it. A retired professor with two adult children still living in America, Matthew’s life consists of the few acquaintances capable of speaking English with him. He is going through the motions, waiting for death at his advanced age until he can finally be reunited with his departed wife Joan (Jane Alexander). An accidental meeting on a bus leads him to a friendship of a kind with Pauline (Clémence Poésy), a young dance instructor with a zest for life. Pauline speaks fluent English, as her father was English.
Seeing a kindred spirit in Pauline, Matthew breaks out of his shell for the first time since his wife has passed. The two form an emotional bond that delicately dances on the edge of love, though it is not a romantic relationship. Pauline is seeking a replacement for her departed father, while Matthew sees a glimmer of a young Joan in Pauline. Both are seeking the comfort of a family, though we soon learn that Matthew has two estranged children.
After a botched suicide attempt by Matthew, his son Miles (Justin Kirk) and daughter Karen (Gillian Anderson) show up. Gillian Anderson’s name is prominently featured in the marketing but her role is brief and fairly inconsequential, practically a cameo. Matthew’s son Miles becomes an integral part of the remaining narrative, as their relationship becomes the central focus. Without revealing a critical plot point, something about Miles is revealed that sets the wheels in motion for the remaining story. Miles is a young version of his father and gets inextricably pulled into the emotional maelstrom between Matthew and Pauline.
Based on a novel by Françoise Dorner, Last Love’s script has an affection for literary pretensions, name-dropping E.E. Cummings and quoting one of Leonard Cohen’s more famous lyrics. The film is carried by Michael Caine’s nuanced portrayal of an emotionally broken widower, pulled out of his melancholy by Pauline’s spark of life. The story does move at a tedious pace, particularly as the plot begins to get predictable in its second half. Its rumination on lasting love and familial bonds gets quite touching at times, underscored by thoughtful performances from the entire cast and a careful director’s eye. It is particularly recommended for admirers of Michael Caine’s work, one of his better efforts in many years.
Last Love has a somewhat unpolished film transfer, shot in the Super 35 format with a fine patina of mild grain. The main feature runs over 115 minutes and is encoded in AVC at a ridiculously high 37.45 Mbps, nearly taking up an entire BD-50. It is framed in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, which is perfectly acceptable framing for a Super 35 film. The generous technical parameters flawlessly replicate the filmmaker’s intentions.
This is a clean print, free of any debris or unusual footage. Last Love’s picture quality has some inconsistencies to it, ranging from striking shots of Paris to some that lack detail and sharpness. The film transfer has not been heavily manipulated in postproduction, left untouched by DNR. Some aliasing seems to have been introduced at the Digital Intermediate stage, wavering from barely noticeable to egregious in a couple of scenes. The color palette lacks warmth, leaving a slightly dull tonality to the entire movie.
Last Love’s cinematography does not aim for immaculate video or the utmost resolution. The few darker scenes have trouble rendering a noise-free image, as shadow delineation gets crushed in the thick noise of grain. The outdoor photography works best, highlighting fine clarity and medium depth. It is a perfectly acceptable picture that likely wasn’t intended for videophiles.
Last Love’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack has a sparse, almost minimalist, score from noted composer Hans Zimmer. The mix effectively conveys the quiet musical backing in balance with all dialogue, a mix of subtitled-French speakers and English. The lossless presentation uses its surround channels very sparingly for dramatic sound, mostly coming to life during the few scenes inside Pauline’s dance studio. No one will get wowed by this dialog-heavy film’s audio but it does provide a nicely-crafted experience.
English SDH has been included as the sole option for subtitles.
Image Entertainment has included two special features. Both run longer than usual for material of this nature, though nothing in either one provides revelatory information.
Deleted Scenes (16:06 in HD) – Presented in chronological order, these deleted scenes appear to have been cut simply because they mostly repeated or reinforced other scenes. They do help to fill-in small details about the characters.
Outtakes (09:37 in HD) – Mostly a collection of gaffs by the actors.
Trailers for Blood (02:17 in HD) and Day of the Falcon (02:33 in HD) precede the main menu.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.