"But men are men; the best sometimes forget." -  William Shakespeare, Othello

Can you be happy with your marriage and still be attracted to someone else? By chance this is the theme dealt with both by a film and by a TV movie I've happened to see these days: 1Last Night (2010) written and directed by Massy Tadjedin and starring Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Eva Mendes and Guillaume Canet and 2. Nick, episode 1 in BBC1 True Love with David Tennant and Joanne Froggatt .

Emotional and thought-provoking reflection on marriage, love, sex, faithfulness, Last Night is the latest film I saw on satellite TV,  which made me wish I had someone near me to discuss it with. I had nobody instead , but here I am now,  blogging with the intent to share.  

The story follows a married couple, Joanna (Keira Knightley) and Michael (Sam Worthington),  apart for a night while the husband takes a business trip with a colleague, Laura (Eva Mendes),  to whom he is attracted. While he tries to resist temptation, his wife encounters her past love, Alex (Guillaume Canet) , a French writer she had a brief intense affair with in France and whose memory she has always kept in her heart idealizing him. Joanna and Michael have been married three years, though they have known each other for many years and have been together since college. 
They have practically grown up together.  Joanna knows Michael deeply and when she sees him with Laura at a party the night before the two leave for their work trip together, she immediately realizes how strong is her husband's attraction to the sexy colleague. She's terribly jealous and they argue. Michael tries to reassure his wife, he rejects any accusation, and  they part without settling their row. Timing seems perfect for Alex's unexpected arrival in New  York and back in Joanna's life... 

David Tennant and Vicky McClure in True Love
In True Love (episode 1) the situation is quite similar: Nick's first love reappears after long time. She disappeared and broke his heart when they were very young. Now when he has been married for more than a decade and has two teenage children, she comes back from his past,  looking for him. Nick is torn, disoriented, totally lost, unable to resist.

 (Beware,  spoilers ahead!)

And this is the difference in both stories. Men can't resist the temptation. They betray. Michael can't resist his attraction to Laura. Alone with her in a hotel on their business trip and far from his wife, he yields to her charms.

Sam Worthington and Eva Mendes in Last Night
Joanna resists her attraction to Alex,  instead : they spend the night dancing, talking, cuddling each other but she refuses to make love. She can't, she simply can't. 
However, she also is cheating on Michael. He doesn't know of Alex's existence. She has never talked to her husband about him. She was not with Michael at the time when she met Alex, nonetheless she has never said a word about him. She often thinks of Alex, she says, especially at night, when she can't sleep. Is this being unfaithful too?

Guillame Canet and Keira Knightley in Last Night
In True Love, Nick's wife, like Joanna in Last Night, immediately realizes something's going on in his husband's life, she knows, she suffers, she forgives. The relationship between Nick and his first love, Serena,  is highly romantic, but it is  characterized by an uncontrollable sexual attraction. Michael - Laura, sex. Nick - Serena, sex. Alex - Joanna, romantic night, no sex.

What I really liked in both stories is  the fact that the narration is totally free from moral judgement. Focused on the analysis of feelings, emotions and instincts with psychological insight and sensitiveness,   both stories propose something different from the stereotyped relationships with a culprit and a victim. The real message is that love is never easy, long-lasting relationships are extremely complex and, especially -  something I am definitely convinced of  - that nobody really belongs to anybody.

A final note. In both movies the locations are stunning: New York by night in Last Night and Margate's beautiful seaside area in True Love.


Laura said...

Well, I haven't watched the movie yet. Did see the series. And they had other stories about faithfullness but... IMHO, and maybe I have a naive conception of relationships, if you are in love, really in love with someone, you are never tempted or should not feel like you are making sacrifices being faithful to your significant other.
I know sometimes it's hard to keep a relationship going but life itself it is hard.. Idealizing is quite easy when you don't have to live with that person every single day through good and bad times... Ideals are quite dangerous because they lack of flaws or faults.
In Nick's case, he remembers how much he loved Laura and all the same my question is: Can't he remember she left without warning breaking his heart in million pieces?
You can say how handsome Richard Armitage is, or how good person or how funny... but when it comes to the next step, I put much more in a balance than sex, good looks or unforgettable memories...

As I said, maybe I'm naive.. Anyway, I'm not judging anyone or saying that it's not possible but for me, the way I think and I am, I found it impossible.

Maria Grazia said...

I'm romantic Laura, but not naive. I'm rather fatalistic or realistic or even cynical. We have to consider us lucky when we are loved and never take for granted our partner's love. Furthermore, we must do our best to make them happy BUT if or when it happens that they fall in love with another person we may cry or fight, nonetheless we cannot keep them with us or force them to love us again. That happens everyday, so I thank God it hasn't happened to me nor to my husband in the many years we've been together (well, I can only be sure for myself in this case.
I know there are many people who keep the memory of a past love in their heart as an ideal, just as it happens to Joanna or Nick, even once they get married to another. I can't condemn that.
Everyday life's hardships easily kill the magic in any wonderful relationship, so fantasy or memories happen to surpass reality (That's what happen in the two stories I watched) .
The affair between Michael and his sexy colleague (Last Night) is instead merely based on sexual attraction, no idealization nor romanticism. I tend to believe I'd behave as Joanna did and refuse to betray my husband on an occasion like that( how much I love to think that!) but I wouldn't swear on anyone's faithfulness, neither mine. When it comes to passions, feelings and emotions human beings are really fragile.
As you say, when you are in love, really and totally in love with a person, you are completely taken in that with your interest, your energies, your heart and your mind. There can't be space for anyone else. But love is a very fragile gift itself. It can be easily spoilt.
P.S. Since you mention HIM... Just to be clear, I wasn't thinking of Richard Armitage nor of any other man while writing this piece. As I have often written my interest in darling Richard has nothing to do with sex or sexual attraction. I don't spend time drooling on pictures of him half - naked. I don't fancy any meeting or intercourse with the man. I just admire what he is, what he says, what he does. I'm interested in his career, more than in his person. I don't want to meet him or talk with him. I'd feel rather silly at meeting him as his fan, actually.

Melanie said...

I think I'd enjoy the way they're played out with no moral ideal being lorded over the viewer.

Personally, I would probably say that Joanna's night was just as much a betrayal as her husband's, especially since it sounds as if it's been something she's harbored for quite some time.

Your view on Richard Armitage is similar to mine. I think he's a neat actor and I enjoy his work, but I'd feel like a dork meeting him, probably end up blurting or standing there in silent mortification. :)