Is the final scene of ‘Last Night’ a good idea?

“Last Night”, by Massy Tadjedin, is one of my favourite films. And when I like a film, I show it to the people I love. But here, it’s a kind of challenge: you never know how people will react to the final scene of “Last Night”.

Spoiler Alert

“Last Night” tells the story of a couple: Joanna (Keira Knightley) & Michael (Sam Worthington). They live in a beautiful flat, in New York. Joanna is a freelance writer and Michael is a real estate developer.
They’ve been together for a while, and married for four years.
They love each other, but something seems to be gone or missing. As if we were in the middle (or at the end?) of a relationship.
The film starts with a work party. There, Joanna sees something she doesn’t like: Michael and one of his colleagues (Laura, played by Eva Mendes) getting along way too well. I think we can totally understand how Joanna feels at this moment. During this party, Joanna asks Andy, one of Michael’s colleagues and friends, if he wants her to walk his dog while they’re on their business trip. He accepts.
What Joanna saw during this party leads to an argument between her and Michael. She wants to know if something’s going on between him and Laura and he says no. At that moment, Joanna says something very important: she says “I’d spare you” referring to the fact that she wouldn’t want him to be hurt if she cheated on him. After that, they finally reconcile but we understand that Joanna still thinks about her couple.

The next morning, Michael leaves New York for Philadelphia to attend a business meeting with Laura, Andy and one of their clients. While Michael is away, Joanna does the washing-up and works. At some point, she goes out to grab a coffee and runs into Alex (Guillaume Canet). We quickly realize how happy they are to see each other, as if nothing had changed since they last met. Alex asks Joanna if she wants to meet him later, and she says yes.
The day goes by and we eventually see Joanna getting ready. Meanwhile, Michael, Andy and Laura are having dinner with their client. After dinner, Laura asks Michael and Andy if they want to have a drink. Andy says no and tries to stop Michael from having a drink with Laura..but Michael accepts.
That’s it for the spoilers, but you should definitely watch this film if you want to fully understand what I’m about to say now.

This film is about the two different “kinds of cheating”: the one that is only related to sex and physical attraction, and the one related to love, to something deeper than just a physical attraction.
“Last Night” is a very moving film.
I watch it almost every year and I think that it’s totally underrated.
I believe that it can make a lot of people think about their own lives. What they have done, what they shouldn’t have done and, on the contrary, what they should have done.
The famous words “What if I had…”. It’s about the choices we make, the decisions we take. What will make us happy or unhappy.
Gosh, I love this film so much.

The final scene

The final scene takes place in Johanna and Michael’s flat. Johanna has just said goodbye to Alex. She’s sad, she’s crying because it seems like she has said goodbye to the love of her life.
Michael comes home early. He wasn’t supposed to come home so early, so Johanna is a bit surprised. She asks him why he’s already here. He asks her why Andy’s dog is here. They both lie.
Michael sees Johanna’s shoes on the floor and realizes that she has lied to him. That she didn’t just go out for a bite to eat.
They look at each other. Then we see Johanna looking at Michael, she’s going to say something. And that’s it. The film is over.
We don’t know what she was going to say. We’ll never know.

Most people I know didn’t like this ending.
They found it really frustrating. They wished it was clear, obvious, determined. I understand that. No one likes to be frustrated.

In my case, the ending is one of the reasons I really like this film. I’m not going to say that I like to be frustrated (even though I‘ve written about the open ending of Shame) but I like being asked to use my imagination.
What is Joanna going to say? Will it be linked to Michael’s early presence? Will she say something unrelated to the story?
Here’s what I imagine:
The fact that Michael sees Joanna’s shoes and realizes that she has lied to him brings the story full circle. Since he’s ashamed of what he has done, he‘s not going to ask Joanna the truth. And Joanna will continue to act as if nothing happened. And they will live with what this “last night” brought them: an affair for Michael and a regret for Joanna.
But it’s also possible to imagine the opposite: Joanna asking Michael again why he’s here. Then Michael would lie again, but this time Joanna would notice and this would lead to an argument.

Is this final scene a good idea? I think so. Because, as with Shame, what we imagine depends on how we perceive the whole film and what we experience(d) in our own lives. It depends on who we are and how we think.
I would have been disappointed if Joanna and Michael had argued and broken up. It would have made this film a total cliché. But the fact that it’s up to us to imagine if the circle is complete or not, is quite interesting. I think that the way we perceive this ending and imagine what happens next, says a lot about us.
This last scene is, therefore, a “necessary” frustration.

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French visual artist

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Pauline Le Pichon

Pauline Le Pichon

French visual artist

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