American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
I am writing in the closing days of December 1999. There are those who expect an apocalypse in a week or so, when Y2K shuts down the power grid and roving bands of carnivorous Americans stalk heavily armed into the streets to steal each other's Christmas presents. My own guess is that New Year's Eve will be more uneventful than usual, as most of us pause, awe-struck, at the chiming of the millennium clock.
Don McKellar's "Last Night" is a Canadian film about the end of the world, and paints a picture more bittersweet than violent. While American fantasies run toward riot, rape and pillage, life will end in Toronto, we learn, with farewell dinners, favorite songs and people deciding they have put off far too long their intention to sleep with one another.
The movie wisely offers no explanation for the coming apocalypse. All we know is that the world will end at midnight precisely, and that darkness never comes. As a soft early-evening twilight hangs late over the city, radio stations count down the 500 top songs of all time, revelers in a city square treat the event like New Years' Eve and we meet a small group of people as they try to face the end with a certain grace and dignity.
One couple meets by accident. Sandra (Sandra Oh) is marooned in a distant part of the city with no way to get back for a planned final meal with her husband. She asks a stranger named Patrick (McKellar) for the use of his phone, but can't find her husband at home or his office. And she has lost her car. Now they sit there in his apartment, two strangers. He has planned to spend this evening alone. What is the etiquette for two people in a situation like this? We meet other characters. One is Craig (Callum Keith Rennie), who has a rendezvous with his high school teacher (Genevieve Bujold). We sense they'd always been attracted to one another, but never acted on their impulses. Now years have passed and it is time to take care of unfinished business. Turns out Patrick knows Craig, and thinks perhaps he might loan Sandra a car. Craig protests that his cars are not just any cars, but valuable antiques. As if it makes a difference.