Though the ominous title of Abel Ferrara's newest movie is partially self-evident, it's really a film about living fully in the present. Willem Dafoe and Shanyn Leigh play a May-December (or at least November) couple, ensconced in their Lower East Side NYC apartment, making copious love, meditating, being creative, watching TV, and talking to far away loved ones via Skype as they await the long-predicted and accepted burning away of the ozone layer's last vestiges, which will ensure the death of all living things.
While a slowly-building background rumble grows bigger on the soundtrack, this sweet and romantic (though sometimes overbaked) film does something that no other apocalyptic scenario has ever considered: it largely forgoes portraying humanity's cries and teeth-gnashings (there is one on-screen suicide), and instead favors the examination of our love for one another that would probably surface when we all found out this race has been run. As the 24-hour news cycle winds down for one final time (in one of Ferrara's most chilling moments), the value of money and status becomes distant as we all become as close as we'll ever be. There are drum-beating parties in the streets as friends and strangers try to say goodbye to each other in the most upbeat manner while that mean, green haze begins to overtake the sky.
It takes the end of our relationship with the world to make it happen, but Ferrara's happiest film dramatizes the raising of ultimate knowledge, the promotion of generosity, and the inspiration of understanding (this is most evident in a moving scene where the couple facilitate the last goodbye for a Vietnamese delivery boy who's desperate to talk to his family). This feeling of warmth, which pervades 4:44: LAST DAY ON EARTH, is what I liked best about the film; it's undeniably flawed in its most shrill moments and possibly improvised moments, but it has a tremendous heart, and heart is what counts. Shot quite sharply with the Red Eye digital camera (which, when projected digitally, provides its own shot at pin-point 3D quality) and edited with utmost precision by Anthony Redman, 4:44: LAST DAY ON EARTH occasionally goes overboard, but I'm on board with that.