Streaming now on Peacock, If You Were the Last follows two astronauts Adam (Anthony Mackie) and Jane (Zoe Chao) marooned in space. It’s been years and even though they both have honeys at home (we love to see you Natalie Morales), they begin to wonder… should they have sex?
It’s a silly and titillating premise and it fits beautifully with Puerto Rican director Kristian Mercado’s particular aesthetic. As the film opens, we see Adam and Jane’s spaceship in a sort of early MTV aesthetic. The handmade touches and DIY flourishes demonstrate the world the couple has created on their own. How they see their space and their lives and their partnership.
Visually it’s compelling and it signifies the way deep bonds can enrich our lives.
If that sounds cheesy – well, it is. But If You Were the Last expertly balances an initial stoner look with a mushy gushy sentimentality. You see, it’s got that Everything Everywhere All at Once vibe. The moral of the story in both films is about the power of kindness and love. They’re both romances for the modern age, where it’s less about falling in love but instead choosing partnership every day. What does that mean? What does it look like? How can the magic of filmmaking illustrate this large part of life? These films ask, pushing the rom-com into new territories.
In If You Were the Last, we see the magic bubble of young love – how it feels and how it colors everything. And then we see reality crashing in, ripping apart the cocoon of it for Adam and Jane and for us the viewers as well.
Suddenly, we’re back on Earth and it’s devastating in its plainness. That’s part of love stories too – what happens after the rush of first romance wears off? Is making that person a part of day-to-day life worth it? If You Were the Last dives into that question both with its plot and its look.
It’s clever visual storytelling but that’s not the only thing this film has going for it. Both Mackie and Chao inhabit a script that requires them to be funny and vulnerable, giddy and strong. And they do so with chemistry that jumps off the screen.
Their life-or-death stakes are less compelling – their relationship is definitely at the center of the film – but there is something to their unique state as astronauts lost in space that shifts between exceptional and relatable. Who amongst us hasn’t been lost and lonely, even if not in that extreme? It’s a clever trick that works to make If You Were the Last feel both aspirational and human-scaled.
But in the end, what really makes the film work is its commitment to the heart. This is a movie that loves love – not the easy, sexy version, although it does celebrate that part, but the more complicated, long-term version. And in that it echoes EEAAO as well, reminding us that some of us are fated to fall in love and deal with the consequences whether it’s happiness, boredom, adventure, or peace.
If You Were the Last gives us a funny, sexy, and silly story, delivering a compelling treatise on the way love works in all of its complicated glory. And that makes it a special film indeed.