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IFFR 2023 Tiger Competition

Review: One Last Evening


- Lukas Nathrath’s feature debut takes in a dinner-party-from-hell scenario, set against the actual quasi-hell of the COVID-19 pandemic

Review: One Last Evening
l-r: Isabelle von Stauffenberg, Nikolai Gemel, Pauline Werner, Susanne Dorothea Schneider, Valentin Richter and Julius Forster in One Last Evening

In the very self-conscious millennial chamber drama One Last Evening [+see also:
interview: Lukas Nathrath
film profile
, a particular note of horror seems to strike the faces of every principal character, most notably the baby-faced Clemens (Sebastian Jakob Doppelbauer) – the dawning realisation that they’re not so young any more, and that life has suddenly become very serious. From their generational name down, there’s always been something Peter Pan-like about millennials, the first collective group to come of age during the 21st century and reap its technological and economic benefits, and perhaps bask in a kind of extended adolescence or latency period enabled by these factors. But now the game is well and truly up, and having watched Friends, they’ve aged into that property-owning (or -renting) stage and have unwillingly become Enemies.

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Premiering in IFFR’s Tiger Competition, and directed by 1990-born Lukas Nathrath as his inaugural effort, this film’s international title, One Last Evening (it was initially announced with its original one, Letzter Abend), has an appropriately sinister ring to it, because of the neuroses of its characters (especially Clemens), and the fact that moving to the big city and its higher stakes – in this case Berlin, from Hanover – feels marked by dark premonition, like a superstitious curse. Clemens, a singer-songwriter of some local renown (to be harsh, think the Coens’ folk troubadour Llewyn Davis, with much, much crapper music), and his long-term partner Lisa (Pauline Werner), an accomplished junior doctor, are having a bit of a “house-cooling” party, seeing off their modest Lower Saxony digs for the country’s capital, so they invite three of their closest buddies, and accommodate – by way of farcical, but not really funny, plot turns – two complete strangers for a night of wine and home-cooked pasta.

Shot in a real location in just a week (a fact that admittedly increases one’s warmth and retrospective patience towards the film), One Last Evening has a baby-Vinterberg plot trajectory, with Philip Jestädt’s panning camerawork taking in the night’s journey from cordiality to acrimony. There are internal and external triggers: Clemens has been recovering from severe depression and a brief hospitalisation, and is growing insecure in his relationship – he wonders whether he should even accompany Lisa to Berlin, although he is aware that he shouldn’t be handling life alone at this point. The supporting roles around the dinner table – namely, Aaron (Valentin Richter), a gay advertising guru, and Marcel (Nikolai Gemel), an underachieving “bad boy” theatre actor – are fairly broad stereotypes, on hand to blurt out accurately COVID-era, if boilerplate, social commentary, like a corporeal, ticking Twitter feed.

With two larger-scale projects in the works, and a post-production award from Locarno for this effort already spelling industry recognition, Nathrath might not wholly disagree if you were to label One Last Evening a “calling card” feature, made to display storytelling chops and filmmaking fundamentals, and form a nice, actorly showcase for its entirely newcomer-laden cast. But the contrivances forcing the characters to remain in the location are awkward, like a play that hasn’t fully made its transition to cinema, and the dialogue often has a jarringly unnatural feel, which the actors’ committed work just about salvages. And let’s not forget the cardinal sin that Clemens commits at the film’s finale, that of getting an acoustic guitar out at a party, although the bleary-eyed singalong he leads the night’s stragglers in winds down the story’s tension to a lovely, slow fade.

One Last Evening is a German production staged by Klinkerfilm. Its sales are overseen by Beta Cinema.

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