Last Life In The Universe

Last Life In The Universe


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Expect the unexpected, which, in itself, is exhilarating. Pen-Ek Ratanaruang breaks every rule of narrative storytelling; you don't know what is real/unreal, past/present, dream/reality.

The protagonist, Kenji (Tadanobu Asano), is an anally retentive loner, whose shyness makes human contact impossible. Although Japanese, he lives/works in Bangkok and thinks about suicide. Even as an anti-hero, he has less charisma than a leaf.

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Noi (Sinitta Boonyasak) is his exact opposite, a messy, selfish, spoilt, self-centred, stupid Thai girl. They meet on a bridge, with traffic roaring past. Noi's sister (Laila Boonyasak) has just been killed and lies slumped against her car. Kenji is crouched on the parapet of the bridge, about to throw himself off. The accident, if that is what it was, brings them together and a most unlikely liaison develops.

Chris Doyle's cinematography and the originality of this odd fable has a certain fascination. Making sense of it may be beyond the ken of middlebrow filmgoers. The final shot contains clues to what has been before, but, without a template, it's pure guesswork.

A revolver is discovered in a teddy bear; gangsters appear for no apparent reason and beat people up; Kenji's brother is shot dead by a man who might be gay; his flat is designed like a bookshop, spotless.

What does it all mean? Kenji searches for the answer and decides that it is better to avoid further confusion by killing himself. His logic, like so much else in his life, is pristine.

Reviewed on: 01 Aug 2004
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A failed Japanese suicide makes friends with a neurotic, spoilt Thai girl in Bangkok.
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Director: Pen-Ek Ratanaruang

Writer: Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, Prabda Yoon

Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Sinitta Boonyasak, Laila Boonyasak, Yutaka Matsushige, Riki Takeuchi, Takashi Miike

Year: 2003

Runtime: 109 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Thailand/Japan


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