Clémence Poésy plays a dance instructor who makes a life-changing connection with an older professor in 'Last Love.' (RLJ Entertainment)
“Last Love” starts out promising enough, but alas, it doesn’t last.
The film takes place in Paris, where an elderly widowed American and former philosophy professor, Matthew Morgan (Michael Caine), spends his days mostly in solitude, speaking with the ghost of his dead wife (Jane Alexander).
One day Matthew meets a young lady, Pauline (Clémence Poésy), on a bus. Bumping into one another again they become unlikely friends.
She’s a mostly uneducated dance teacher and Matthew starts learning the cha-cha and line dancing.
Nothing physical develops between them, but you can tell Matthew wishes it could. Pauline has awakened feelings in him he’d thought long gone. She, in turn, obviously finds him an appealing father figure.
But Pauline remains unattainable for Matthew even as he’s falling in love; she’s a reminder of romance and youth and beauty, and all that he’s lost. It’s an interesting dissonance reminiscent of the Peter O’Toole film “Venus.”
But then an incident happens and Matthew’s grown children, heretofore unheard of, arrive, and the film takes an awkward lurch away from atypical romance and toward far more typical family dysfunction.
Matthew’s daughter, Karen (Gillian Anderson), is a sassy wisecracker who disappears quickly (unfortunate, since she seems a lot of fun). But his son, Miles (Justin Kirk), is loaded with anger issues, so he hangs around, scowling at Matthew’s relationship with Pauline.
Writer-director Sandra Nettelbeck, adapting a novel by Francoise Dorner, can’t completely abandon the May-December romance, but its power certainly gets diffused by the family bickering.
Still, Caine at 80 is a wonder, and Poésy is certainly worthy of an old man’s dreams.
In “Last Love,” romance never dies, but the film, unfortunately, somewhat abandons it.
Running time: 116 minutes