YOUR LAST DAY ON EARTH
by: PRINDIE Senior Programmer ALEX KIM
Marc Martínez Jordán’s Your Last Day on Earth is a joy to watch, a hilarious time-travel film whose visuals are gorgeous, grainy, vividly colorful, and sometimes cosmic—with a DIY flair. If all that sounds incongruous it’s because it is, and in less sure hands this film would easily have fallen apart at the seams. But Jordán has a keen instinct for how to combine the elements he has at play in this film.
Take for instance the opening, where the protagonist, in an immediately captivating shot, approaches us through a green-pink mist. As his voiceover begins, we’re so taken with the subtle beauty in that initial image that the comedy sneaks up on us—making us laugh that much harder when he brandishes in a dramatic close-up his “super-special invitation” to time travel, the kind of ticket that comes in rolls of 2,000 at your local Walmart (at the time of this writing, $6.35 a roll).
Your Last Day on Earth is also a film that wears its love for its influences on its sleeve—particularly that of Wes Anderson. It has a bright color palette, symmetrical shot composition, and a fox mask that immediately recalls Anderson’s own Fantastic Mr. Fox. But as with any great film, it channels its influences through a unique and personal vision—a vision that, for example, gives an underlying menace to the “presentation video” scene, and that turns expository moments into ones of startling visual beauty (as we learn of “spreading rumors,” we get a quick shot of lips, of an ear, lit among shadows in dark red, in dark blue).
Jordán revels in small details like that quick one-two punch of the lips and the ear, and like the aforementioned time travel ticket. He takes them and uses them to create a world which operates on its own special logic. When our protagonist first finds himself in the past, unconscious, a large green leaf lands on him and wakes him up. There are no other such leaves around him. Where did this one come from? How did it happen to land exactly on his person? It exists to wake him up. It’s not a cheat: it’s a great visual gag, one that works in the slightly surreal world of the film, and one that works so well because it pokes fun at a certain kind of nonsensical logic (“He needs to wake up. Something should fall on him”) that all of us have as children and that never quite goes away, even as, growing older, we get better at hiding it. It’s our self-recognition in that moment with the leaf that makes it so funny, just as it’s our self-recognition that gives the film as a whole its heart—because who hasn’t, at some point, wanted to fix some part of their past?