Sensitive, engrossing, Rodolphe Marconi’s Le dernier jour deconstructs a teen suicide. Marconi carefully details the train of events that lead Simon (Gaspard Ulliel, superb), an 18-year-old art student, to commit the violent act against himself with which the film opens. This overdetermined act is the result of numerous blows to Simon’s fragile identity, all of them converging, each compounding the others.
The film is about family secrets and forbidden love. At Christmastime, Simon brings to his family’s seaside vacation home a girl he met on the train; he doesn’t know that Louise, who arranged their “chance” encounter, is his half-sister, that his father isn’t his biological father. The pair sleep in Simon’s bed; Simon falls in love, but Louise keeps their closeness chaste. At the last, when she is about to leave with Simon’s best friend, Mathieu, she tells Simon, “We can’t love as we like, but differently.” Simon has yet to learn what we already know about Louise.
The boy’s feelings are ambiguous. The odd-one-out in the threesome that he, Louise and Mathieu become, Simon is racked with jealousy that he does his best to suppress; but jealous of whom? He is torn between unconscious homosexual feelings for Mathieu and all-too-conscious feelings for Louise. Rather than being exasperatingly academic, then, Marconi’s ambiguousness is correlative to Simon’s conflict of emotions. This conflict visibly exhausts Simon during a tennis match in which Louise and Mathieu oppose him, and his final walk towards his end, which is to say, the beginning of the film, resembles that of an old man.
Simon passes by a tree that he had once photographed, its lopsided crown an image of his fate.
With expiring consciousness as he bleeds to death, Simon asks, “Am I dead or not?”—the closing ambiguity.
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