Mr. Morgan’s Last Love, 2013
Directed by Sandra Nettelbeck
Starring Michael Caine, Clemence Poesy, Justin Kirk, Gillian Anderson
A look at the life-changing connection between a retired and widowed American philosophy professor and a young Parisian dance teacher.
Mr. Morgan’s Last Love is nice. Now when I say nice, what I am really saying is ‘suitable for daytime television scheduling’. In fact, if we’re honest, that is probably the best place for it. Inoffensive, occasionally charming, flimsy and a little bit too twee for its own good, this mostly harmless little tale about the life of widower, Matthew (Caine), living in Paris shortly after the death of his wife is a melancholy picture postcard for those that either wistfully yearn for an eternal love lost or have a romantic notion of Paris that has yet to be realised.
Following the death of his lifelong partner and apparent soul mate, Matthew Morgan is left emotionally stranded and alone in the Paris apartment bought for them by his late wife. Less enamoured by the city and its inhabitants even at the time of the purchase, it becomes clear that all of the reasons for staying in the city died with his wife. He continues to take lunch with a maturing Parisian woman, however, an innocent rendezvous that has seemingly been going on for some time, if for no other reason than the mutual appreciation of the intricacies of the others’ language. Also, Matthew rides the local bus, despite owning a car, which is where he meets Pauline (Clemence Poesy), a young, native and disarmingly sweet dance teacher with an unusual heart of gold, who walks him home after an unavoidable incident resulting him being left a little unsteady, though far from helpless, on his feet.
The doddery old fart in a strange land approach doesn’t really wash much cleaner than Caine’s American accent which many may take issue with, as Caine’s performance is not as dependent and more curmudgeonly than we might expect. Supported by son and daughter inheritance chasing tag team Gillian Anderson and Justin Kirk, these portions of the film are sometimes a little grisly and tough around the edges, an odd counterpoint to the sweet and tender relationship being forged by Matthew and Pauline who attempt to go about their business with as little fuss and bother as possible.
Cynics both on screen and in the audience can and will scoff at the possibility of a relationship of this kind not being anything other than honourable, but most will still question the motives of the majority of the players here, not least the potential gold-digging Pauline, who seems just too darned lovely to imagine as having any kind of ulterior motive.
At nigh on two hours, you can be forgiven for at least thinking about where the exits are on occasion as at times the story is if not painfully slow, then certainly pedestrian, which we can be quite sure is by design, recreating a pace reserved for those with nothing to rush for, much like Matthew himself. This gives the film-makers time to dress Paris with a romantic tinge and eye pleasingly visual flourishes that accentuate the tone of the film admirably. In this regard, the film will remind those familiar of Amour, if in it’s most basic elements. Michael Haneke’s film, however, enjoys a more thorough, thoughtful and unforgiving script, delivered on average with greater verve.
The third act of the film will defy everything that has gone before it and notions of anticipated happy endings will be altered if not ended for the audience as the film takes a different direction than expected and, if we’re honest, wanted. This may make the viewer wonder just what the point of all this preamble was, but there is a lesson here for both Matthew and ourselves.
Amiable enough but doing little to jangle the emotions too often, Mr. Morgan’s Last Love will entertain and occasionally enlighten, but as already mentioned this is a film that only surprises as much as it impresses. Sweet and tender enough fro your Granny to get a kick out of, Nettelbeck’s direction, like her script, is formulaic and tested previously in projects that get more under the skin than we can enjoy here. Not a disaster by any means, but the highs and lows experienced here feel like they are just lacking something, a smidgen short of realism, perhaps, that stop the film from soaring.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★