sun 21/07/2019

Mr Morgan's Last Love | reviews, news & interviews

Mr Morgan's Last Love

Mr Morgan's Last Love

Michael Caine is masterly in an old-age drama in romcom disguise

Park life: Pauline (Clemence Poesy) and Matthew (Michael Caine)

A May-September relationship is given a winter chill here. When Matthew Morgan (Michael Caine), an American widower in Paris, meets pretty young dance instructor Pauline (Clemence Poesy) on a bus, the ageing male fantasy suggested by the title seems on the cards. A feel-good scene of grumpy, grieving Matthew joining in at Pauline’s dance class also prepares you for a lazy, age-gap romcom. But his puppyish looks towards Pauline as he dances are childishly needy as much as comic, and German writer-director Sandra Nettlebeck has more interesting, unpredictable ideas on old age, youth and relationships.

Caine, who has previously dealt with elderly decline in Is Anybody There?, deserves and gets a rounded character as capable of rage, bullying and foolishness as kindness and wisdom. At an age, 81, when great Hollywood stars find themselves fobbed off with condescending cameos, this is a leading role worthy of him.

Matthew’s daily routine circles around the hole his wife’s death from cancer has left in his life. He imagines her still in his bed, advising him, and her grave tethers him to France. He shaves the weary grey beard of these early scenes after meeting Pauline. But, bitterly catching himself as a group of schoolgirls pass around him, he realises the inappropriateness of a sexual romance. Being left wilting in the rain when Pauline scoots off with a young man she’s just met rubs it in. Poesy’s character, initially a perky cipher, has a more complex role to play. Missing her dead father, Matthew fills that gap in her life. She not only reminds him he is alive, but reminds him what that could mean to his estranged son. She knows what it would mean to her.

Caine’s sketched-in American accent is required to keep that son, Miles (Justin Kirk), a distant ocean away from his Paris exile. But when dramatic events bring Miles back into his life alongside sister Karen (a hilariously blousy, acerbic Gillian Anderson, pictured above right with Kirk), any remaining romcom trappings fall away. What’s left is an intimate family affair in which Miles, Matthew and Pauline all become catalysts for change, the cross-currents battering them, while Caine as usual revels in his character’s least sympathetic qualities, which bring him fully alive. Being 81 doesn’t disqualify him from displays of potent aggression, pathetic stubbornness, or long-dammed tears.

As a writer, Nettlebeck has turned her French source novel La Douceur Assassine into an engrossing adult drama. As a director, though, she’s plain, chucking in regular Eiffel Tower establishing shots, but finding nothing visual to say about a notably drab City of Light. Mr. Morgan’s Last Love is worth seeing as an unusually intelligent film about the conflicts near a life’s end, and for Caine. After a half-century of stardom, he grafts and crafts his way to another acting jewel.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Mr Morgan's Last Love

At 81, when great Hollywood stars find themselves fobbed off with condescending cameos, this is a leading role worthy of Caine

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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