Sandra Nettlebeck’s “Last Love,” which opened in limited theaters on Nov. 1, begins with a very touching moment. Matthew Morgan (Michael Caine) is looking at the body of his wife, Joan (Jane Alexander), after she has just passed away. When people come to take her away, Matthew won’t move. He’s in a sudden state of shock, and he doesn’t want to lose the love of his life. It is during this short scene that we realize the greatness of an actor like Caine.
At times, it’s a bit hard to take “Last Love” seriously. Matthew has lived in France for several years, but he has refused to learn a single word of French. That leads to some of the cashiers at his frequent food joint to crack jokes about him, and he doesn’t know what they’re saying.
Of course, that part is almost believable – considering the trauma that Matthew is facing. After his wife died three years prior, he becomes a loner. He follows a simple routine in life to get by, and that’s it. He doesn’t socialize, unless it is with his dead wife – who visits from time to time.
Matthew finds a new zest for life, when he meets a young Parisian dance instructor named Pauline (Clemence Posey). The two become very close friends, and it seems like their relationship will blossom into something more, but it never does. Matthew looks frustrated when he sees Pauline with another man, and you can tell that he wants something more to come of it.
Whenever Matthew is not with Pauline, he becomes depressed. One day, he takes a few too many pills and winds up in the hospital. His children, both of whom are living in America, come to visit him. One is Miles (Justin Kirk), who is going through a divorce and has yet to mention it to his dad. The other is Karen (Gillian Anderson), a shopaholic who has family problems of her own.
Anderson is in the film for a very limited time, but her role as the comedic relief of the story is great. It also turns the film into a semi-comedy after showcasing a more melancholy story. Once she leaves, Miles becomes more focused on this new girl in his father’s life.
“Last Love” is not a perfect movie. The change from a journey through a lonely widow’s life to romantic comedy-drama is kind of abrupt. But it’s the performances – especially from Caine and Anderson – and the chemistry of the characters that hold the film intact.