4:44 Last Day on Earth | On Demand review
Abel Ferrara imagines the end of the world.
How often does your day turn out to be less epochal than you’d planned? There’s no reason your last day—or Earth’s—should go any differently. Approaching the end of life on the planet from a perversely micro angle, Abel Ferrara shows us the final hours before humanity is wiped out—courtesy of some vaguely explained ozone malfunction—as seen from a New York apartment. Here, an actor (Willem Dafoe) and his painter girlfriend (Ferrara’s long-term partner, Shanyn Leigh) meditate, screw, Skype with family and order takeout, the latter delivered by a Vietnamese man who couldn’t afford to fly home. (Exactly how would your valedictory hours look if you were forced to spend them alone?)
Most filmmakers would treat a cataclysm like this one as an occasion for bombast; Ferrara, as is his wont, plays a more cerebral and spiritual angle, relying predominantly on newscasts and stock footage to evoke the world outside. Indeed, for a movie that largely concerns two characters, 4:44’s true subject might be disconnection, or the way technology mediates relationships. The action is confined but rarely feels stage-bound: Dafoe’s character wanders over to his former dealer’s place for one last bullshit session (and possibly a fix). In a touch that recalls the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the streets are remarkably still; anyone who has somewhere to be is presumably already there. A provocatively spare production that finds its autobiographically inspired central couple engaged in petty bickering when not seeking nirvana, 4:44 presents an apocalypse so prosaic, it’s strange. (Available on VOD; see ifcfilms.com for details.)