By Seun Olowo-Ake
Directed by Ridley Scott, and written by Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck, and Matt Damon, The Last Duel is set in the 12th Century and is based on the true story of Marguerite de Carrouge (Jodie Comer), Jean de Carrouge (Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) and the accusation that put all their lives at risk.
Knowing nothing about the movie before I went in, I admit that I didn’t think that I would enjoy Last Duel. However, the more the story unfolded, the more interested I became. I liked how the film decided to tell the story from the three different perspectives and found it fun seeing how all three people saw the exact same situations in such different ways. I also really enjoyed the performances. Damon captured the hot-headedness of Jean; Driver exemplified the charming, eloquent womanizer that was Jacques; Affleck brought so much humour with his portrayal of the more secondary Lord Pierre; and Comer did an exceptional job portraying the devoted, meek wife, the subtle flirt, and the striving-but-not-quite-good-enough wife that Jean, Jacques and her narratives respectively show her to be.
The film begins by showing us the deterioration of Jean and Jacques’ relationship as fortune continues to smile on Jacque, often at the expense of Jean. The resentment that builds in the already brash Jean reaches its tipping point when his wife, Marguerite, accuses Jacques of rape. Jacques insists that he is innocent, and Jean insists that he is ready to fight to the death to prove that he is guilty. This leads us to the duel itself, which was the last one permitted by the Parliament of Paris. (I just discovered that. The title of the movie makes sense now.)
Many people have called this movie a ‘medieval #MeToo film’, and it very obviously has those undertones. From the characters that did not quite believe Marguerite to the women in the film that came forward with their own stories while simultaneously wondering why on earth Marguerite would ‘bring shame to her family in this way’, to the invasive questioning that she endures on the way to her potential death, The Last Duel certainly shows the struggle of women who have suffered to speak out against the toxic men in their lives.
However, another thing that stood out to me is the idea that we are the centre of our stories and that our actions are reactions to what we perceive around us. We see this in all three main characters, but particularly in Jacques who maintains his innocence because of how the world works to him and how he interpreted the behaviour of Marguerite.
I also found it fascinating that the person with the most drastic character change in all three accounts is Marguerite. Both Jean and Jacques were men who had professed in some way to love her, yet they did not truly see her. In fact, the movie constantly shows her struggling to be seen and heard by her husband, by Jacques and by society. It makes me wonder if we as the main characters in our stories view other people the way they truly are, or the way we want them to be. This idea gains more significance when we consider again that our actions are results of how we see the things around us and that we are constantly interacting with other people who are directly or indirectly affected by what we do. The Last Duel (and historical account) gives the more extreme example of assault, but that is something for us all to ponder as we go about our lives.
True love is putting others before ourselves and, in the context of this movie, seeking to truly understand their motivations before reacting- which I’ll admit is really hard, but no one ever said love was easy.
The Last Duel is available in theatres on Friday, October 15th, 2021.