Last Life in the Universe (2003)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama  |   Release Date - Aug 6, 2004 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 112 min.  |   Countries - Japan , Thailand   |   MPAA Rating - R
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In contrast to his more boisterous Mon-Rak Transistor, Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Last Life in the Universe is a much quieter film about modern loneliness. Divided by their languages (Kenji speaks Japanese, Noi speaks Thai) and personalities, the film's two protagonists are united in their desire for redemption and love. Ratanaruang is far from the first contemporary filmmaker to enter this territory, and his film has the atmosphere of any number of others in which lost souls are overwhelmed by the complexity of simply living. Except for some pacing problems (which also marred Mon-Rak Transistor), the film is well made and the two leads develop an enjoyable chemistry. Sinitta Boonyasak is wonderfully engaging as Noi, the tough, whimsical, but somehow disciplined, bargirl. Tadanobu Asano's performance as Kenji is more mannered. His character is essentially an enigma we never come to understand, and Asano -- a much sought after actor who's turned in memorable performances in everything from Takeshi Kitano's Zatôichi to Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer -- never seems to get a handle on him. Last Life in the Universe also features the talents of cinematographer Christopher Doyle, who is at his best here. The light is creamy and rich, giving almost every scene the look of a Vermeer painting. When a film looks this good, it's easy to forgive its flaws.