the last kiss [l'ultimo baccio] (2001)


director: gabriele muccino

stefano accorsi, giovanna mezzogiorno, stefania sandrelli

Gabriele Muccino’s The Last Kiss begins and ends with a wedding, but the film in between makes you wonder why anyone bothers getting married, so hopeless are the odds and ill-prepared every character in the film for a lifetime of committment.

Carlo (Stefano Accorsi) is a handsome young man with a beautiful - and pregnant - girlfriend, Giulia (Giovanna Mezzogiorno). At a friend’s wedding, he sees Francesca (Martina Stella), a gorgeous 18-year old, who triggers a crisis in Carlo’s (obviously tenuous) fidelity to Giulia. He’s not alone - all around him, his friends and family are looking for an escape from their lives, running away from recent or even decades-old marriages, from any form of committment, or from the simple circumstances of their lives.

Carlo’s best friend Adriano wants to leave his wife and baby, certain that the arrival of the child has ruined everything. Alberto is a dreadlocked casanova who seems to live on one-night stands, and Paolo, rejected by the woman he loves, is desperate to escape everything in his life, and convinces Adriano and Alberto to buy a camper van and head off for Africa. All of these men would be easy to dismiss as spoiled boys living an extended adolescence if it weren’t for Giulia’s mother Anna (Stefania Sandrelli), who’s also bolting her marriage for what she decides is her last chance for freedom.

Everyone in Muccino’s world - a comfortable, impeccably middle class urban world, seemingly free of the bounds of church and family that once defined life in Italy - talks about freedom all the time, but it’s hard to see anything they do as truly free. All of them, even Anna, is a slave to a self-created myth of youth and its inverse, a gnawing dread of age and a life defined by routine. Freedom is ultimately just escape, but no one knows where it will lead. Even Carlo’s trio of friends end up settling on Africa for lack of a better idea, sealing their pact by getting ridiculous lip and nose piercings.

Carlo and Anna ultimately recoil from their terrifying and lonely new freedom and return to the families they were so desperate to abandon. Muccino seems happy enough to send them there, but hedges his bet with a few, final hints that the “happily ever after” ending isn’t to be trusted. It’s a barbed end to a beautifully shot, perfectly acted, and slyly despairing film.