Film Review: Mr Morgan’s Last Love

It’s been a very long time since I’ve been left feeling quite as puzzled by a film as I do by this. I know I enjoyed it but I’m not sure really sure why, or if I should have. And as a story, it’s confused and muddled and overly simplistic in its portrayal of life and yet, as I said I enjoyed it. Well most of it anyway.

Based on the novel La Douceur Assassine by Francoise Dorner, Mr Morgan’s Last Love is the tale of Matthew Morgan (Michael Caine), an American living in Paris, who through a chance encounter meets Pauline (Clémence Poésy) and their growing platonic relationship; which is then intertwined and interrupted through the involvement of Morgan’s son Miles (Justin Kirk) with a story about family, death and ultimately, forgiveness. Which, in theory and in trailer, work to create a potentially interesting tale but stretched out to just under two hours and things become worn and unfulfilling. And yet I enjoyed it.

It is possible though, I think, to work out why I’m so split by this film. There’s almost too much going on. It’s almost too layered and involving two many sub plots that the overall picture has become fractured. In the same way the finished picture of a completed jigsaw still shows the outlines of the individual pieces, this film never struggled to ever blend everything together. And that meant there are parts of this film that I really enjoy and there are parts of this film that honestly, had me close to throwing things at the screen.

Michael Caine - Mr Morgan's Last Love

Taking a binary, black and white approach to it and going bad to worse, firstly: Michael Caine has an American accent that not only doesn’t “fit” his face in the politest possible way, at times appears to change regional tone, and almost feels more Mid-Atlantic than modern American, and because it never feels natural, it constantly sits on your mind breaking up your concentration just when you don’t want it to.

Secondly, there is an overly basic view of the world, they try to explain it away in the story, almost to the point of it being a pivotal moment in the film, but the way the Morgan and Pauline come together and the way their relationship grows just felt to me far too close to fiction, to be acceptable as fact. I just couldn’t image events ever unfolding in real life like that, however much they try to explain why they could and did.

Michael Caine & Clémence Poésy - Mr Morgan's Last Love

Then there is my biggest complaint. The final twist, the path it takes to conclude its story and round up to its ending. I want to be really careful with spoilers, but the actions it takes to set up the final 30 minutes destroyed the film for me. It destroyed the tone and the flavour and felt wrong and unnecessary. It meant that everything that had gone before was instantly lost, and I think that’s why I’ve been left so torn by the film emotionally. I enjoyed it for so long, to then have the rug pulled out from under my feet just was such a letdown.

However, as I said, all it not lost because aside from the dialect of Caine, nurturing relationships and path it chooses to finish on there is just so much to admire and like about this film. Even down to the underlying tones of the story.

Michael Caine & Justin Kirk - Mr Morgan's Last Love

To start of Mr Morgan’s Last Love manages to pull off the impressive trick of taking a slightly dark, depressive theme and yet mange to spin it into a tale that really draws you into the characters and their actions, to such an extent that you actually feel inspired and slightly moved by their tales. It manages to take death and loss and loneliness and ensure that you never lose sight of the spark of light that will ultimately overcome those emotions.

Then there is the cinematic shooting style. The way they have shot and lit this film has resulted in a sense of class, and elegance, and almost regality. The colour palette used, tonally cold and unsaturated feels just right to reinforce the emotions they want to imply which they’ve then reinforced by using a fixed camera on a dolly so the image is stable within the shot before composing everything with the rule of thirds, even when characters are in conversation, compounding the sense of space and distance between the characters.

It really is a well constructed film.

I really would suggest that if you get a chance to see it that you do, because it’s a pleasant film that will honestly, surprise you and touch you in what it achieves and the messages it manages to convey but accept that sadly, it has a lot of faults stored up to spoil the ending.

8 out of 10 stars (8 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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