“Next time i get asked that question, that’s what i’m going to say—my film is from the female perspective, because I wrote it, so it’s my perspective, and I’m female!” Writer-director Massy Tadjedin’s directorial debut, Last Night, will be released in May after screening at the Tribeca Film Festival and she is just getting used to the sort of interview questions asked of women in the industry. When a suitable answer to the inevitable query is suggested, she’s pleased with its simplicity, its potential to change the direction of the conversation.
Tadjedin has made a movie about relationships but appears allergic to the usual oppositional theories given on the actions of men and women. “There are a lot of films about affairs,” Tadjedin admits, “but that’s because we haven’t figured this out yet. We keep going back to take another look. I wanted to make a non-judgmental, ambiguous film that shows an affair doesn’t always come out of a lack in a relationship, and it doesn’t have to mean the end of that relationship. Often the characters we see in movies are just projections, they’re not real people.”
Last Night focuses on a married couple who, on a night apart, are drawn in by their respective temptations—the seductive work colleague for the husband and the French fling for the wife. It hangs on the four performances of Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington as the couple, and Eva Mendes and Guillaume Canet as their potential affairs. “I knew I had to have actors who were capable of knowing their character so well they could be one person with their spouse, and then another person, but only five percent different, with someone else. It depends on these degrees to reveal why they’re attracted. Keira was able to slip on the dress to go out with Guillaume and change, not completely, but significantly.”
Tadjedin knew Knightley from the set of The Jacket, an acclaimed horror film from 2005, which she wrote. At the time of casting, Sam Worthington had just started filming Avatar. “I chose Eva Mendes because I wanted to portray a different kind of other woman,” Tadjedin explains, “and she has this core of warmth and goodness that resonates in her performance. This isn’t a woman out to steal someone’s husband, she holds this sadness, and feels that all she has are transient connections, the present moment, and in this she finds comfort.” She provides little in the way of backstories for her characters, deliberately immersing the audience in their lives and allowing assumptions to be made long before they can be overturned.
With a tantalizingly open ending, Last Night is bound to provoke cautious, curious talks between first dates and long-term couples alike. Consider it an intellectual’s Indecent Proposal in this way, ready to raise the difficult questions and provide no easy answers.