The Last Life in the Universe (15)

Written and Directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, Additional Writing by Prabda Yoon
Screening at FACT from 17th - 22nd September 2004

Reviewed by Adam Ford

Thai director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang has created a delicately shaded and subtle romance that will confuse, amuse and sharply divide audiences.

Kenji (Tadanobu Asano) is a shy Japanese librarian living in Bangkok with two preoccupations - cleaning and suicide. Unfortunately for him, he has just spoiled the uniform sterility of his flat by spattering his walls with the blood of his brother and a gangster. Yet another 'attempt' to end his own life follows - this time by jumping from a bridge - but he is interrupted by a furious argument and car accident in which young prostitute Nid (Laila Boonyasak) is killed whilst her brash sister Noi (Sinitta Boonyasak) looks on. Though they could hardly seem less compatible, the two bereaved siblings tentatively begin a relationship whilst Kenji hides out (and cleans up) at Noi's cluttered and chaotic beach house.

The Last Life in the Universe has a druggy, hallucinatory feel and we are treated to some sumptuous visuals in the dream/flashback sequences and the dazzling scenery that surrounds the beach house. It is also incredibly slow and drawn-out, with a subtle, minimalist script and narrative. Some will find the drawn-out and minimalistic script charming, and for them emerging from the cinema into the evening breeze will feel like gradually waking from a pleasant, refreshing slumber. On the other hand, anyone hoping for a feelgood Hollywood-style boy-meets-girl couldn't do much worse.