Title: If You Were the Last
Genre: Science Fiction Romantic Comedy
Director: Christian Mercado
Starring: Anthony Mackie, Zoe Chao, Natalie Morales, Geoff Stults, Missi Pyle
Year of release: 2023
Astronauts Adam and Jane, participants of a NASA mission, have been drifting in space between Jupiter and Saturn for three years with no hope of returning home. Their space shuttle’s navigation system malfunctioned, and communication with Earth is absent, so dreaming of a “Houston, we have a problem” scenario is futile. The third crew member, Benson, perished, or more accurately, perished, and the involuntary space travelers do everything not to die of boredom.
Jane still hopes to fix the navigation, while Adam aims to cultivate a hybrid of marijuana and blueberries. The local community is spiced up a bit by a few chickens and a genuine goat, so at least the astronauts have eggs and milk for a long time. Among other pastimes are dancing to favorite music, classic movie nights with popcorn, and improvised dialogues with what remains of the deceased colleague (basically a skeleton in a spacesuit).
Everything changes when Adam suggests to Jane that they sleep together. Considering the slim chances of returning to their significant others—and it’s not certain whether they have decided to move on—this step seems logical and justified. Jane tries to weigh all the pros and cons before making a decision, but whatever she decides, the sex promises to be otherworldly.
Initially, “If You Were the Last” seems frighteningly similar to another recent release of the week, “Love by Challenge.” However, the material here is clearly more mainstream, but that doesn’t negate the fact of the same intimacy, the same two characters on screen, their endless conversations, and slow maturation towards sex. However, this analogy quickly fades away as Christian Mercado’s debut film is devoid of drama and aimed at leisurely spending time in front of the screen.
Unlike the dramedy with Emma Thompson, Mercado’s film relies not on dialogue richness but on playful storytelling energy, where there are fun, great companionship, ultimately, love, but no despair, regret, or tears.
Although the heroes find themselves in a truly dire situation, akin to Jim and Aurora in “Passengers” by Morten Tyldum, or Tony Stark and Nebula, when we’ve already mentioned Marvel, this is not a reason for sorrow. Essentially, we have a utopia here, a fairy-tale fantastical adventure, as far removed from reality as the main characters are from home. And such an approach sets a very positive tone.
The atmosphere is reinforced by a nostalgic 80s vibe, manifested in frames bathed in neon rays and techniques from the analog era—from music players to the on-board computer with a corresponding image on the screen.
The science fiction element here exists purely as a backdrop for a romantic story, and the space adventure itself is a screaming conventionality. While watching, numerous logical questions may arise (where did the goat come from, for example), but it’s better to leave the “odd one out syndrome” outside the cinema. Because what to expect from a film where space flight scenes are done in the style of children’s cartoons, and the space shuttle and planets around it are nothing more than papier-mâché products.
Anthony Mackie and Zoe Chao, who shone exactly a year ago in the rom-com “Between You and Me,” make a charming screen duo and deliver several dance numbers they shouldn’t be ashamed of.
His Adam is inclined towards country music, prefers to watch “Casablanca,” and has never seen “Alien” by Ridley Scott. Her Jane can’t imagine life without Lionel Richie’s songs, offers “Die Hard” instead of “Casablanca” (“I need Hans Gruber!” she cries), and promises herself never to eat chicken eggs again if she returns to Earth.
Together they discuss “The Martian,” play chess, goof around, fall in love, projecting this optimistic mood onto the audience. And this couple even reminds (hmm, where have we heard this before?) of the latest Mr. and Mrs. Smith, with the female characters even sharing names.
“But.” Everything good said about the film above applies only to the first hour of the runtime. After a momentous plot twist that turns everything upside down, there’s no trace left of the initial magic and charm. The final act significantly disrupts the atmosphere and the established mood, slows down the energetic pace, and ruins the overall impression. It exists solely to logically and predictably conclude the story.
But overall, “If You Were the Last” deserves to be chosen for viewing on one of the evenings with your significant other. It’s a sufficiently fun, energetic, and undoubtedly stylish romantic comedy that interestingly represents the genre and once again reminds us that “Alien” is a masterpiece of love that will surely prevail.
“It You Were the Last” is unlikely to be added to the “favorites” folder for repeat viewings in space travel. However, for a one-time earthly viewing, the film deserves attention.