Last month, in advance of its December release on DVD and VOD, I screened a little indie flick from 2011 starring Nicole Beharie of Sleepy Hollow fame. Beharie’s smiles are magical on Sleepy Hollow, so I welcomed the opportunity to see more of them in this Brooklyn tale of musician Leticia (Beharie) striking out on her own and German businessman Niklas Hank (Ken Duken) vowing to seduce her on his one day in town.
That sounds like the set-up for a bigscreen whirlwind romance that I rarely buy into, but My Last Day Without You resists taking the predictable paths toward superficial love connections. Leticia is no manic pixie girl, and Niklas is not a floundering manchild. Rather, he’s a corporate hatchet man in the vein of George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air, and he shows little compunction when confronted by the people whose jobs he’s just ended.
During one of many shots beautifully framed through windows, Niklas meets Leticia, who offers him one of those smiles and a sample of her CD.
Niklas is entranced by this charismatic woman. With the encouragement of his chauffer, an avowed romantic played with relish by Robert Clohessy, Nik vows to seek Leticia out as a distraction until his flight back home that evening.
Unbeknownst to them all, Leticia is a casualty of Niklas’s company’s downsizing. That job had been the means by which she could finally move out from under her father’s loving, but controlling, thumb. Her father, Lester Johnson (Reg. E. Cathey) is the pastor of a church in Brooklyn, the setting for his own unexpected but thoroughly delightful romance with faithful congregant Luz (Marlene Forte). Their love story is a mirror of Leticia and Niklas’s. Whereas the main couple has just met and are testing how far to take their instant attraction, Lester and Luz have been friends for many years and must now decide if companionship and matching emotional baggage are enough to bring an attraction about. The awkward scene in which Luz lays down her case for them to date is a highlight of the film. Lester is blindsided, but as his later actions show, why waste time when you already know a person through and through?
It’s that getting to know a person part that guides much of the action for Leticia and Niklas. Leticia quickly figures out that Niklas is the three-martini-lunch type of guy, and that is not her MO. Although her anger over her job loss propels her to test the waters, she’s still a good Christian girl who remains true to herself throughout the film.
Yet she’s intrigued to know more about this insistent stranger. The audience pieces together Niklas’s background at the same pace as she does. My expectation as a conditioned movie viewer was that I should root for Niklas to grow as a person, but neither I nor Leticia were sure that’s something Niklas was capable of or even wanted to do. Thankfully, this is a film wherein Niklas ultimately has to work that out for himself, and the audience cannot be sure of the outcome.
The moment when I realized I could trust these filmmakers to do the unexpected came after Niklas believes he has undergone a transformation. But when he tries to press money into Leticia’s hands to pay for borrowing a pair of her father’s shoes, I shook my head right along hers, knowing as she did that Niklas just didn’t get it. Sharing that connection with Leticia gave me the release I needed as a cynical viewer to buy into the movie’s final scenes.
With a script that smartly delays a foregone conclusion, a set of engaging side characters, and plenty of spark between the two leads, I found My Last Day Without You to be a delightful, believable tale of love that might be.
It was directed by Stefan Schaefer and produced by Christoph Silber. The story is loosely based on the events of Silber’s own chance encounter with love. The pair co-wrote the film as well as much of its original music. Turns out Beharie can sing!
The soundtrack is available on iTunes and Amazon, and the film has now been released through DVD or streaming at Amazon, Vimeo, and most anywhere else you can purchase movies online. You can also access it directly from the film’s website, here. Amazon buy links follow.