“One Last Evening” (original title “Letzter Abend”) is filmmaker Lukas Nathrath’s feature debut and it premiered in last year’s edition of the Rotterdam International Film Festival’s Tiger Competition. Written by Nathrath, with Sebastian Jakob Doppelbauer, who also played one of the key protagonists, the German film is a taut chamber drama filled with palpable tension, raw emotions, and tantalizing possibilities. In the familiar setting of a dinner table conversation turning into a conflict, “One Last Evening” should be regarded as a fine addition to the list of such chamber films.

One Last Evening (2023) Movie Synopsis & Plot Summary:

Lisa (Pauline Werner) and Clemens (Sebastian Jakob Doppelbauer) are romantically involved and live together in a small flat in Hannover. Lisa is a junior doctor and Clemens has been trying to make his mark in the music industry. A couple of opening shots make it clear that the two are characteristically quite different. Lisa is energetically ambitious and practical. Clemens is aloof and absent-minded, except when it comes to his music. Clemens had problems with depression and was admitted to a clinic. It appears his episode with depression has also meant that he is a bit out of the loop from his bandmates.

The titular last evening refers to Lisa and Clemens’ last night in Hannover as they are moving to Berlin. It is primarily to further Lisa’s medical career.  The daunting prospect of a future in a big city like Berlin adds to the already palpable tension between the two. To celebrate their last in Hannover, the couple invited some of their friends and family members. Some of the friends drop out of the party, and some unexpected guests join them.

The first of such unexpected and uninvited guests is Katharina (Susanne Dorothea Schneider). Katharina is Lisa and Clemens’ neighbor. When Clemens asks for some flour from her for Lisa’s lasagna, she helps them and takes a couple of extra steps as well. She drops by to help them cook and gets herself invited to the party. The other unexpected guest is Valerie (Isabelle von Stauffenberg). She is a traveler passing through who bumped into Clemens in the street by Clemens and Lisa’s building. She asks if she could charge her phone in their apartment. Clemens, with Lisa, initially refused as Valerie appeared a little too shifty for Lisa’s liking. Later, Clemens, on a smoke break, bumps into her once again and asks her to come upstairs to charge her phone.

Amongst the invited, we have Aaron (Valentin Richter). Aaron is Lisa’s cousin and he works in an advertising agency. Then we have Jan (Julius Forster), Lisa’s colleague from the hospital. It is clear that Jan holds a candle for Lisa. His attitude and covert glances are a dead giveaway of the fact that he is hoping for a breakup between Lisa and Clemens. On the surface, Jan has more to offer. Apart from the fact that he is also a doctor, he is suave and seems to be more assured than Clemens is. We also have Marcel (Nikolai Gemel), the only representative from Clemens’ side. Marcel is Clemens’ friend and he is a theatre actor.

One Last Evening (2023) Ending Explained:

Why Did Clemens Attack Jan?

Although the official synopsis of the film says that the dinner party is the place where these friends measure each other’s ‘achievements,’ it is strictly not that. Sure, there is an undercurrent of achievements. However, the majority of the conflicts arise from past trauma, political opinions, and untold feelings. It seems it is not just the audience but the entire friend circle can see through Jan’s facade. With conflicts rising and alcohol loosening lips, Jan confesses to having feelings for Lisa. Just before this, Clemens, who wrote a song dedicated to Lisa, presents the song to Valerie instead. So, it is not surprising that Lisa reciprocates Jan’s confession by kissing him.

One Last Evening (2023) Movie Ending Explained - hof
A still from “One Last Evening” (2023)

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to all, Clemens and Marcel snort cocaine inside the bathroom. This loosens up the already loosened Clemens. Marcel also eggs on Clemens by saying Jan is trying to steal Lisa. So, it comes as no surprise that during a charades game, Clemens flies off the handle. He starts to manhandle Jan, and a fight breaks out. Aaron and Jan take potshots at Clemens’ mental health and leaves to find Lisa. Yeah, Lisa had already left the chaos using the excuse of getting more gin.

Why Did Katharine Break Down in the Toilet?

The evening also reveals the past trauma of the two strangers, especially that of Katharine. During a musical session, where Clemens strums his guitar and plays some songs, Katharine also shows her singing prowess. She says she had a brother who was musical. Of all the people in the party, including Lisa, Katharine seems to be the only one understanding Clemens is on the verge of a breakdown. When Jan and Aaron use Clemens’ mental health to hurt him, she comes to his defense first. Clemens breaks down in front of her as well. It is implied that Katharine’s brother died of depression. Possibly by taking his own life. The entire evening, Clemens’ mental health reminds Katharine of her brother. That is why she also breaks down.

Were Clemens and Lisa always headed for a breakup?

Even before Jan walks into the party or Clemens oddly presents his song for Lisa to Valerie, there is palpable tension between Lisa and Clemens. Lisa is shown to be supportive and sympathetic to Clemens’ depression. However, as the evening progresses, we see her wondering about life without Clemens. Whether it is packing books or inviting Valerie to dinner, a conflict between the couple seems to always be around the block.

What happens to Lisa and Clemens?

When everyone leaves, Clemens contemplates suicide once again. It should be noted that Clemens did not spend any effort to look for Lisa, who had her phone switched after leaving to get some gin. When Lisa comes back, Clemens decides against taking his life and comes to Lisa. Lisa tells him that she cannot do it anymore. She tells Clemens that she is aware that he was in the bathtub trying to kill himself. But she could not bring herself to save him. She did it once, implying the time she saved his life after his apparent suicide attempt. But she can no longer do the same as she is having an episode herself.

The film ends with Lisa sitting on a wall alone, looking at the Hannover cityscape. It is implied that she leaves Clemens. Clemens is well and truly on his own now. Lisa is unsure of her future and she simply takes the time to look into the city she is supposed to be leaving now. The film leaves it open whether Lisa moves to Berlin or not. However, it can be interpreted that she is now alone, signifying that her relationship with Clemens has ended. Her future with Jan is not important here. Remember, just because she kissed Jan, it does not mean she has the same feelings for him. Her refusal to take Jan for her run to get gin is a significant indication that she was not looking to go to another man immediately.

Read More: Everything Coming to Criterion Channel in July 2024


One Last Evening (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Letterboxd
The Cast of One Last Evening (2023) Movie: Sebastian Jakob Doppelbauer, Pauline Werner, Susanne Dorothea Schneider, Nikolai Gemel, Isabelle von Stauffenberg, Valentin Richter, Julius Forster, Nils Rovira-Muñoz, Amelle Schwerk, Pascal Houdus
One Last Evening (2023) Movie Genre: Romance/Comedy | Runtime: 1h 17m
Where to watch One Last Evening

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