Last Night is a 1998 Canadian drama film by Don McKellar. It was filmed in Toronto. Set in Toronto at an unknown date, Last Night tells the story of how a variety of intersecting characters spend their final evening on Earth. It seems the world is to end at midnight (Eastern Standard Time) as the result of a calamity that is not explained, but which has been expected for several months. There are several scenes of an ominously glowing sun, which gets progressively larger and brighter even into the night. Some people in the film choose to spend their last evening alone, others with loved ones, others in prayer, others in public mayhem, and still others at raucous festivities. The owner of a power company Duncan (David Cronenberg) spends the majority of his final day calling up every single one of his customers to reassure them that their heating gas will be kept on until the very end. Meanwhile, his wife Sandra (Sandra Oh) prepares to fulfill their suicide pact when she becomes stranded with a depressed widower Patrick (Don McKellar) preparing to die while listening to music and drinking wine on his roof, surrounded by mementoes of his recently deceased wife.
It’s six hours until the end of the world, and Bruce Willis, Robert Duvall, and Will Smith are nowhere in sight. The world is really gonna end — so what do you do with those six hours?
I rarely read film production notes, but writer/director/star Don McKellar’s introduction to Last Night caught my eye this time. I quote, ‘The world is ending, once again. But this time, in my movie, there is no overburdened loner duking it out with the asteroid, no presidents or generals turning the tables on extra-terrestrials. Those heroes are out there, somewhere, one hopes, but I was interested in the rest of us suckers – hapless individuals who, with limited access to nuclear resources, would have to come to terms with the fast-approaching finale.’
This is heady stuff. I’ve long toyed with the idea of writing a black comedy set on the eve of our destruction, but always abandoned the idea because it’s just too maudlin. Atom Egoyan veteran McKellar doesn’t completely escape that sentiment in this film, but he does a commendable job at taking what might be the most difficult of subjects and turning it into something that’s enjoyable to watch.
Reminiscent of Short Cuts in many ways, Last Night follows the intertwined stories of the last six hours in the lives of several people. McKellar takes the lead as Patrick, a troubled man who has to deal with his family (including sister Polly), sex-crazed friend Craig (Rennie), and lost lamb Sandra (Oh), who’s trying to get home in time so she and her husband can kill each other before midnight, when the world will go away (in a mysterious fate).
None of this is played to comedy – well, maybe a little comedy, and before long, the world has indeed ended for what might be the first time on film, and everyone’s life has changed along the way (you know, before they died).
Last Night is heavy filmmaking, but it rewards the patient viewer. It’s deep and thoughtful, and quite sleepy in parts, but McKellar, in his directorial debut, has done an admirable job. I know I couldn’t have done it.