The Very Last Day (Taiwan, 2018)

Bestselling author Raymond (Lawrence Ong) has just released his latest novel. It should be a happy time, but there is discord between him and his wife, Viola (Chou Heng-Yin), as well as between Viola and their teenage daughter, Cynthia (Lee Meng-Hsueh). Their marital problems apparently run very deep, though at times Raymond seems oblivious to it. To further complicate matters, Raymond has a fan that is very interested in him – and he is in her. Melanie (Lin Wei-Yi) lures Raymond to an isolated house in the mountains after Viola tells him she is seeking a divorce. On the way there, things take a strange and violent turn. What initially seems like a stalker situation similar to Stephen King’s Misery quickly becomes something altogether different. Melanie is seeking an apology from Raymond. His latest book mirrors something that happened in Melanie’s life when she was a teenager, and reading the book has brought the trauma back.

The Very Last Day begins at a signing for Raymond’s latest book, and you can already see the tension that exists between the writer and his wife, who is a university professor and was an aspiring writer. From here, director Cedric Jouarie has the tension grow as we see the fighting between the couple while Raymond begins work on his next novel. At one point, Viola accuses her husband of stealing other people’s lives for profit. The first half of the film shows us the deteriorating relationship within the family and Raymond’s reaction to it all. He lives in his own world, oblivious Viola’s pain, not to mention oblivious as to how bad the relationship has gotten between mother and daughter. When Viola announces she is leaving, Raymond is shocked. He allows Melanie to seduce him and decides to go with her to her family’s home in the mountains.

The second half of the film deals with Melanie’s kidnapping of Raymond and what her intentions are. Melanie initially seems like a crazy stalker but turns out to be a very damaged young woman. At times, there is real sympathy for Melanie. She suffered a very real trauma and it has affected her greatly. We see Melanie’s story told in flashback sequences that illustrate this well. At first it is unclear if these scenes are a sort of telling of Raymond’s book but it eventually becomes clear that what is happening really occurred. Melanie attempts to exact revenge, as she is sure that Raymond is the one who is responsible for her trauma. But is he? Or did he just happen to write a book that mirrors Melanie’s story?

The Very Last Day is a compelling film which becomes rather brutal in its second half. The main theme that Jouarie expounds on is betrayal – of trust, relationships, and confidence. Viola trusted Raymond with her story and he betrayed her. Melanie trusted her new friend and he betrayed her in a most violent way. The characters are well written and thoroughly fleshed out so that you do think of them as real people and not just two-dimensional figures on a screen. Melanie starts off as a sympathetic character, but quickly spirals out of control. There is still some empathy left for her at the end, but very little. Raymond seems likeable enough, at first, but soon it becomes clear that he is rather self-centered. He exploits those around him for his novels without a second thought. There is also a scene between Raymond and his daughter that is somewhat disturbing. Viola is the one character throughout that the audience can sympathize with and like as an individual as she has clearly endured a lot with Raymond over the years. Although both Viola and Raymond get what they deserve by the end of the film, the outcome is by no means predictable.