Last Life in the Universe

Director: Pen-ek Ratanaruang

Thailand| 2003. Subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 112 mins.

Kenji (Tadanobu Asano) is a young Japanese man working in a Bangkok library; his life is so dull and obsessively ordered that he’s constantly contemplating methods of suicide. Then one day, while poised to leap off a bridge, he sees a girl die in front of him, while her sister Noi (Sinitta Boonyasaki) also watches. Kenji and Noi are both stunned by the event and eventually escape together to Noi’s ramshackle country home. Noi is getting ready to move to Osaka, Kenji’s home. While she gets ready to leave they slowly begin to soften toward each other, but their pasts converge on them with a vengeance.
This is essentially an opposites-attract love story, but it’s filmed in an otherworldly way, with surprises and fantasies that throw us off course. Red herrings and sudden revelations abound, but the central emotional storyline holds firmly as we get to know two people who have virtually nothing in common (they even have to use English to communicate) yet need each other. Small flashes of humour and violence wake us up from the film’s quiet, dreamlike sleepiness. And it looks absolutely amazing, from Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s inventive direction to Christopher Doyle’s astonishing photography. This is a carefully balanced film in which even the gruesome violence has an emotional punch; every scene is intricately staged, carefully edited and played with lovely subtlety by the cast.

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