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Thursday, June 28, 2012

"But men are men; the best sometimes forget." -  William Shakespeare, Othello

Can you be happy with your marriage and still be attracted to someone else? By chance this is the theme dealt with both by a film and by a TV movie I've happened to see these days: 1Last Night (2010) written and directed by Massy Tadjedin and starring Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Eva Mendes and Guillaume Canet and 2. Nick, episode 1 in BBC1 True Love with David Tennant and Joanne Froggatt .

Emotional and thought-provoking reflection on marriage, love, sex, faithfulness, Last Night is the latest film I saw on satellite TV,  which made me wish I had someone near me to discuss it with. I had nobody instead , but here I am now,  blogging with the intent to share.  

The story follows a married couple, Joanna (Keira Knightley) and Michael (Sam Worthington),  apart for a night while the husband takes a business trip with a colleague, Laura (Eva Mendes),  to whom he is attracted. While he tries to resist temptation, his wife encounters her past love, Alex (Guillaume Canet) , a French writer she had a brief intense affair with in France and whose memory she has always kept in her heart idealizing him. Joanna and Michael have been married three years, though they have known each other for many years and have been together since college. 
They have practically grown up together.  Joanna knows Michael deeply and when she sees him with Laura at a party the night before the two leave for their work trip together, she immediately realizes how strong is her husband's attraction to the sexy colleague. She's terribly jealous and they argue. Michael tries to reassure his wife, he rejects any accusation, and  they part without settling their row. Timing seems perfect for Alex's unexpected arrival in New  York and back in Joanna's life... 

David Tennant and Vicky McClure in True Love
In True Love (episode 1) the situation is quite similar: Nick's first love reappears after long time. She disappeared and broke his heart when they were very young. Now when he has been married for more than a decade and has two teenage children, she comes back from his past,  looking for him. Nick is torn, disoriented, totally lost, unable to resist.

 (Beware,  spoilers ahead!)

And this is the difference in both stories. Men can't resist the temptation. They betray. Michael can't resist his attraction to Laura. Alone with her in a hotel on their business trip and far from his wife, he yields to her charms.

Sam Worthington and Eva Mendes in Last Night
Joanna resists her attraction to Alex,  instead : they spend the night dancing, talking, cuddling each other but she refuses to make love. She can't, she simply can't. 
However, she also is cheating on Michael. He doesn't know of Alex's existence. She has never talked to her husband about him. She was not with Michael at the time when she met Alex, nonetheless she has never said a word about him. She often thinks of Alex, she says, especially at night, when she can't sleep. Is this being unfaithful too?

Guillame Canet and Keira Knightley in Last Night
In True Love, Nick's wife, like Joanna in Last Night, immediately realizes something's going on in his husband's life, she knows, she suffers, she forgives. The relationship between Nick and his first love, Serena,  is highly romantic, but it is  characterized by an uncontrollable sexual attraction. Michael - Laura, sex. Nick - Serena, sex. Alex - Joanna, romantic night, no sex.

What I really liked in both stories is  the fact that the narration is totally free from moral judgement. Focused on the analysis of feelings, emotions and instincts with psychological insight and sensitiveness,   both stories propose something different from the stereotyped relationships with a culprit and a victim. The real message is that love is never easy, long-lasting relationships are extremely complex and, especially -  something I am definitely convinced of  - that nobody really belongs to anybody.

A final note. In both movies the locations are stunning: New York by night in Last Night and Margate's beautiful seaside area in True Love.


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