Something important will happen tonight. In fact, for the population of Planet Earth, it's the last thing that will ever happen as tonight at midnight, it's the end of the world. People are coping with that in different ways, and the city of Toronto is much like any other, with some sections descending into something close to anarchy, and others doing their best to retain the status quo as the end draws near. For architect Patrick Wheeler (Don McKellar), it's an event he wishes to spend alone, much to the dismay of his mother, but to keep her happy he has agreed to turn up for a family get-together which has been arranged as a Christmas dinner, even though it's not that time of year. However, Patrick will find that being alone is not as easy as he wants...
We are all going to die, but most of us don't dwell on the fact, or upon what we will be doing when it happens. Who will we be with? Who will be in our thoughts when the final curtain falls? Will it be peaceful? Last Night was actor-turned-director Don McKellar's first feature film after a couple of shorts, initially meant to be set during the milliennium celebrations, but he preferred to make an apocalyptic tale instead. Not that the film is spectacular, far from it, as the storylines concentrate on the human side, offering quiet portraits of various characters whose lives affect each other in sometimes unexpected ways.
Yes, there is violence occuring, as Sandra (Sandra Oh) finds out as she stops her car outside a grocery store to pick up a bottle of wine to share with her husband, only to have it parked halfway up another store by passing thugs. Sandra's mission to reach home to share her last moments with her husband is what really propels the plot, as she needs to get across town but is constantly foiled. Meanwhile, Patrick dutifully but sarcastically attends the family dinner then, with his mother weeping, opts to leave with the presents she has given him, basically items of nostalgia because if you know the end is coming, with nothing to look forward to there's nothing to do but look back - any afterlife is never considered.
On the other hand, the film can be quite funny as well. Patrick's old friend Craig (Callum Keith Rennie) is making his way through an incredibly extensive list of sexual fantasies: when we first see him he's carrying out an arrangement with a black prostitute, and soon his favourite schoolteacher, Mrs Carlton (Geneviève Bujold) will arrive so he can live out his wish to bed her as well. Then there's the head of the gas company (cult director David Cronenberg) who is telephoning each of his customers and leaving answer phone messages thanking them for their custom and wishing them a fulfillng Armageddon.
We never actually find out why the world is ending, although as the night draws on we notice it never gets dark, which might be a clue. But the reason is not as important as how it affects the characters, all of whom want their deaths to be perfect whether it's at a huge party or otherwise. For Sandra that might not be possible and she bumps into Patrick on her travels, asking to use his phone. Patrick turns Good Samaritan and tries to help, even securing her use of a car, mainly because he wants to be alone, but if there's a message to Last Night it's that we're all in this together, and no matter how isolated you feel there's always a connection about to be made, even at the end. For the finale, there is no welter of special effects, no last minute reprieve, simply a poignant close to a film that gently yet emotionally writes us all off, while acknowledging that something precious has been lost. Music by Alexina Louie and Alex Pauk.