Adam (Anthony Mackie) and Jane (Zoë Chao) are three years into a NASA mission that has gone very wrong: Their ship is broken and drifting between Jupiter and Saturn. Finding ways to pass the time as they become certain that no one is coming to save them, they argue over what to do. One day, Adam poses that maybe they should sleep together; Jane laughs the idea off, but it prompts a flirty debate about whether they’re better off spending their remaining days as friends or something more.
If You Were the Last creates its considerable charm by reviving the screwball style. Adam (Anthony Mackie) and Jane (Zoe Chao) are two stranded astronauts floating in space with no navigation or communication systems. They have nothing but routine, the hope of repair and all the time in the world to talk themselves silly on every minor, major and private thing. After all the shop, brain and trivial stuff is dispensed with, the deeper emotional bonding conversations occur, eventually feels, and despite their attempts to keep it handshake platonic (they’re both married to gravity bound mates) the sex leads to love.
It’s the hopeless romantic (Mackie) pleading for joy versus the pragmatic optimist committed to returning home once the mechanical issues are solved. The skeleton of the third crew member who wigged out and had to be humanely dispatched, exists to be moved room to room, being both a silent therapist and confidant. It’s morbid but it works.
Wisely the director, Kristian Mercado and writer, Angela Bourassa inject moments of apartness, silence and contemplation to let the absences simmer to a proper romantic heat. It needs to move from the platonically professional, to familial emotional, to all out love. There are no shortcuts to love in romantic comedies. The audience knows the dance and when the moves are out of step, especially when long time second lead actors are in their first leading romantic role.
Mackie’s control gives the film gravity. He makes Chao happy, wears on her comfortably like a favorite blanket.
With the paper mache planets and cardboard sets If You Were the Last gives off a retro slapstick vibe. Stupnitsky wants to acknowledge the artifice of the situation, make the audience realize that these are artificial constructs, things easily broken through, removed and made visible to the characters. In their return to earth these are literally burned up and the weight and gravity of the their love becomes obvious to them and their spouses.
The only thing If You Were the Last is scrupulous about is making sure its comic and emotional realities balance. The audience needs to know and see that the two are star-crossed lovers, see how love can even spin rational minds on their heads.
If You Were the Last gets a 3.5 out of 5 or a B+. it’s streaming on Peacock.
- Genre: Romance, Sci-fi, Comedy
- Original Language: English
- Director: Kristian Mercado
- Producer: Andrew Miano, Dan Balgoyen, Britta Rowings, Dennis Masel, Gabrielle Nadig, Jessamine Burgum, Kara Durrett, Jon Levin, Sean Woodson
- Writer: Angela Bourassa
- Release Date (Streaming): Oct 20, 2023
- Runtime: 1h 32m
- Distributor: Peacock
- Production Co: Depth of Field, Storm City Films, Pinky Promise