“Love is a many splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love.” So says Ewan McGregor’s character, Christian, in Moulin Rouge: If only it were that simple. The Last Kiss, the latest film from Italian writer-director, Gabriele Muccino, explores the complexity of love and the strain of relationships. The ensemble cast features some of Italy’s most beautiful actors, portraying refreshingly real characters.
Carlo (Stefano Accorsi) and Guilia (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) are in love. Guilia announces she’s pregnant, and Carlo’s perfect world is shattered. He loves Guilia, but is he ready to be a father? Is is really time for him to settle down, get married and raise a family, or does he have one last adventure to take? Adventure you ask? What could be more adventurous thanfinding true love in the eyes of the 18-year-old Lolita-like Francesca (Martina Stella).
Carlo is not the only one facing a crisis of sorts. Guilia’s mother, Anna (Stefania Sandrelli), is unhappy. Her husband, Alberto (Marco Cocci), barely speaks to her. Two year’s ago Anna abruptly ended an affair with a younger man who she still loves. Three of four of Carlo’s friends have problems of their own, too. While Emilio (Luigi Diberti) is a happy newlywed, Andriano (Giorgio Pasotti) feels distant from his wife and six-month-year-old son. Paolo’s (Claudio Santamaria) father is dying, but he can’t seem to get over his ex-girlfriend. In order to help his friends’ troubles, Marco (Pierfrancesco Favino) suggests an escape plan: buy a RV, leave Italy and drive through Africa.
Again, if only things were that simple.
Carlo becomes more and more infatuated with Francesca, particularly her youthfulness. But Francesca is falling in love with Carlo, unaware of his pregnant girlfriend. Her spurring obsession with an older man shows the naivete of young love, and many of her actions are almost painful to watch.
Anna chooses to leave her husband, which comes as a shock to her daughter Guilia. She tries her hardest to talk some common sense to her mother, but the effect doesn’t take hold right away. Guilia is actually the only character who to has her life under control. She loves Carlo, is excited to become a mother, feeling that nothing could break her mood. That is, until she finds out about Francesca.
The directing is nothing spectacular, although there are a few camera tricks here and there. The heart of the film is the conversational style of the script. The ambiguity of the setting also makes for believable drama. If it weren’t for the subtitles, the film could be set in Southern California instead of Italy.
The film is accentuated by juxtaposed scenes, such as the anticipation of pregnancy and the dreading of divorce, and the awkwardness of a first date and finality of a bachelor party. Conflict creates drama driving complex characterization and compelling the audience. Although the word “crisis” is repeated throughout the film, so is the word “happiness.” Of course, one has to wonder if anyone chasing love can be truly happy.
This article appeared in the August 25, 2002 issue of the Hatchet.