Top five lists are fun to make: top five desert island books, top five favorite albums, top five celebrity crushes. But Don McKellar’s latest disaster flick, Last Night, asks: what are the top five things you would do if you knew you were going to die?
Set in Toronto, this end of the world joco-tragedy follows the lives of seven characters as they come to grips with their mortality. Each represent a macabre solution to the ‘death problem’ set by McKellar, also the film’s writer; and each intersect with the main character, Patrick Wheeler (McKellar), on his journey in overcoming the inevitable. The film adroitly and compassionately explores our capacity to feel at the brink of the infinite. And through humor, instills hope that, even in the end, we are absurdly human.
Much of the film’s focus is on Patrick’s relationship with Sandra (Sandra Oh), a married, pregnant woman he meets in front of his building after she bouts with car trouble. Sandra is desperate to make her way across town where her husband resides, in order to fulfill their suicide pact. Patrick is enlisted to help and the two navigate the revelry and fevered mayhem of a town entrenched in calamity. Crime and selfishness stand in their way, as their world goes through the nascent stages of dealing with the awesome concept of ‘end.’ Some celebrate, some consummate, and some hide in a world of denial- the last day on earth spent doing what most people do on a daily basis. Yet, McKellar’s attention and tenderness to characters who frantically seek a sense of normalcy and sensation draws on the strength of the human condition: even in our weakest, fearful moments, we are driven to feel alive.
Too, the audience is left with the tingling rush of having lived through something life altering. Better than an adrenaline high, Last Night gives renewed sense in person and significance. Through common conventions and daily headaches, like car trouble, family obligation, top 40 stations, and screened phone calls, McKellar shoves us down the rabbit hole and makes us thankful for what we find on the other side of the looking glass. And though Patrick and Sandra can’t escape a ticking clock, we’re graced with a lifetime of possibility.
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