The Last Kiss

(L'Ultimo Bacio)


The best thing about foreign films is also one of the worst. It is expensive to bring films over here, and the market is not large, so this means that few international films make it here. Hopefully, there is some sort of weeding out process that allows the ones that do arrive here to be of a good quality. The Last Kiss is a case in point. It is writer/director Gabriele Muccino's (But Forever in My Mind, That's It) paean to fidelity, which garnered it commercial and critical acclaim, leading to 10 Donatello nominations in every major category (The Italian Oscars) and five wins including Best Director. The Last Kiss plays out like a train wreck, with Carlo (Stefano Accorsi, The Son's Room, His Secret Life) witnessing everything.

Carlo is at a turning point in his life. He is nearing thirty, and deeply in love with his beautiful girlfriend Guilia (Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Nobel, All There Is to Know) of three years, but in no rush for marriage. When Guilia announces she is pregnant, the fears of long-term commitment begin to surface. His friends are no help. Yes, one is newly married, but Alberto (Marco Cocci, Ovosodo) lives the single life, going from one woman to another. Paolo (Claudio Santamaria, Almost Blue, The Son's Room) is coming off an extremely bitter breakup, and his feelings constantly change from outright rage to pathetic self-pity. Worst of all is Adriano (Giorgio Pasotti, San Paolo, La Voce del Sangue), who has a six-month old infant at home. He no longer has any sort of feeling (love or hate) for his wife, and complains to Carlo that all his time goes toward his son. He has no freedom, and the loss is stifling.

So what can Carlo do when the alluring, eighteen-year old Francesca (Martina Stella) quickly comes onto him? He runs to her. She represents freedom, freedom for him to do what he wants. He is still deeply in love with Guilia, but is realizing that commitment may mean losing out, although he is not too sure exactly what he is losing out on. Guilia's mother Anna (Stefania Sandrelli, Waiting for the Messiah, Volaverunt) is what the future may hold. Her marriage is no longer one of love. She detests her husband, and wants to be away from him, although once away, she feels even more lost than before. It's fascinating watching Accorsi, because he actually looks like he is in pain. His confusion about what to do looks genuine, and it comes across in the way his character continually hesitates before trying to decide what is right. The rest of the cast does well also, especially Mezzogiorno and Sandrelli.

There is nothing inherently new in Muccino's story. Instead, it is the way that he tells it. He crams in a lot of people, so many that initially it is hard to figure out who is who. Amongst his characters, he has nearly every conceivable permutation of how a relationship can turn out. And Carlo is sitting back watching all of this unfold before his eyes. Each of his friends represents what could happen to him and Guilia, and he only sees the worst. The script is full of deadpan humor that contrasts nicely with a melodramatic touch, such that it's hard figuring out sometimes whether it's proper to laugh or cringe. He has these people fall so low that it's nearly impossible for them to bring themselves back up, and there is no way to predict what his intentions for the characters are until they happen. And, just as he is about to approach the level of melodrama, Muccino backs off a little, never letting the story get out of hand.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 52 minutes, Italian with English subtitles, Rated R for language, sexuality, and some drug use.

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