MR. MORGAN’S LAST LOVE – (Germany/Belgium, 2013)
An unusually mixed bag: A German-Belgian co-production starring Britain’s Sir Michael Caine playing an American; written and directed by German film-maker Sandra Nettlebeck (HELEN, MOSTLY MARTHA); based on a French novel, shot in English on location in Paris. This, perhaps, explains some of its more ungainly and disconnected moments, the weak screenplay and Sir Michael’s erratic attempts at an American accent.
Sir Michael plays Professor Matthew Morgan, grief-stricken American widower still living in Paris and clinging to fond memories of his beloved wife. A chance encounter on the bus with attractive young Pauline Laubie (Clémence Poésy of 127 HOURS and IN BRUGES), also a teacher in her way – albeit of ballroom dancing – jolts him out of his despair, and their ensuing friendship gradually fills him with a newfound joie de vivre and a feeling of “family”.
Strolling through Paris, lunching in the park, jaunts to the countryside and some entertaining attempts at dancing all serve to give Mr. Morgan a new lease of life. Until the inevitable depression reoccurs, and he seeks to end it all with an overdose. Waking up in the hospital, he finds his estranged son and daughter (played by Justin Kirk and Gillian Anderson) at the bedside, determined to talk their father into returning with them to the US. And bursting with outrage at the French usurper who, meanwhile, has problems of her own.
Although Ms. Nettelbeck decided to make the lead character American – doubtless in what will prove a fruitless attempt at generating international/US appeal – Françoise Dorner’s original was French. Winning such an illustrious star as Caine to play the lead was certainly a major coup that must have been hugely helpful in acquiring production finance, bank guarantee, and major distribution. Apparently the novelist’s collaboration was not solicited during the adaptation process, which may be why much seems to have been lost in translation.
All about loneliness, MR. MORGAN’S LAST LOVE is not that bad or overly dreary, and it does have some bittersweet moments to offer. American accent aside, Caine wrings the very best from the screenplay, and the vibrant Clémence Poésy provides more emotional depth than one would initially expect. The visuals and production values are praiseworthy, and a tasteful score by Hans Zimmer helps to mask some of the flaws.
MR. MORGAN’S LAST LOVE (Germany/Belgium, 2013); Genre: Drama; Running time: 116 mins; Director: Sandra Nettelbeck; Writers: Sandra Nettlebeck (screenplay), Françoise Dorner (novel “La Douceur assassine”); Cinematographer: Michael Bertl; Composer: Hans Zimmer; Distributors/Release dates: Senator Film, August 22 (Germany) / Image Entertainment, October 2013 (USA)