In the opening scene to Sandra Nettelbeck’s amiable and touching drama Mr. Morgan’s Last Love, we’re introduced to the eponymous lead, played by Michael Caine, as he’s being ushered out of a room by a small collective of people. They’re all speaking French to him, and the director refuses to subtitle their words. Instantly we’re put into his shoes, somewhat unaware and confused, establishing a sense of loneliness from the word, which ultimately proves to be the prevalent component to this affecting piece.
Caine plays Matthew Morgan, widowed and isolated in his Paris apartment, longing for some attention from his son Miles (Justin Kirk) and daughter Karen (Gillian Anderson), as he contemplates suicide. However he is inspired and rejuvenated when he meets the young Pauline (Clémence Poésy) on the bus home, instantly forming a rapport with the dance teacher, who convinces him to take one of her classes. Suddenly he finds a meaning to life away from his wife who passed, only for his two children to arrive in the city, and throw a spanner in the works.
Caine turns in a hugely empathetic performance, playing the role with such grace and humility as we see a remarkably vulnerable side to his demeanour. The only downside is his inconsistent accent, which is sometimes his usual, distinctively cockney voice, and sometimes just American. However, there is of course the occasional one-liner delivered in the only way he knows how. Though given the nature of the piece, it’s not quite “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off”, and more “put more pickles on the side please”.
He has been blessed with a heavily nuanced character, who wears his heart on his sleeve, yet manages to be so subtle and understated when doing so. Conversely, Pauline is a little harder to get your head around and figure out, with her intentions somewhat less tangible. Though the elusive nature to the role is fine, you do feel you leave proceedings never quite sure of what to make of her, and perhaps more could have been done in her character development. That being said, she doesn’t necessarily need to have too much of a reason for her actions, I mean, wouldn’t you want to have Michael Caine as an old companion?
In the meantime, while the introduction of the children is a necessity as far as the narrative is concerned, to throw in some form of conflict – the film does lose its way somewhat, as the sweeter, more intimate moments between our leading duo become fewer and farther between. Nonetheless, there remains a very moving, enchanting and ultimately, very French tone to this production. It can be somewhat predictable and cliched in parts, but on the whole it’s well-crafted and certainly triggers an emotional response from the viewer, as between Matthew and Pauline, there is undoubtedly something the audience will be able to relate to.