The Unexpected Romance of Astronauts in 'If You Were the Last'

If You Were the Last (2023), Christian Mercado's debut feature takes everything serious about sci-fi, including science and logic, and throws it out the window, leaving only the emotion and chemistry between the two main characters

by Sededin Dedovic
The Unexpected Romance of Astronauts in 'If You Were the Last'
© Peacock / Youtube channel

Movies about astronauts lost in space usually go in the direction of tense thrillers or claustrophobic horrors, whether the astronauts start killing each other while paranoia consumes them or they are haunted by a space creature with a forked tongue that extends like a drawer, which isn't necessarily a bad thing because "in space, no one can hear you scream," as the marketing gimmick from the past says.

However, one thing escapes studios, probably because it doesn't resemble something profitable, is that such a situation can be an excellent backdrop for a heartwarming human story or romance between two characters. "If You Were the Last"; directed by Kristian Marcado; starring: Anthony Mackie, Zoë Chao; 2023.

In 2016, Morten Tyldum directed "Passengers" based on Jon Spaihts' script, who wrote "Prometheus" for Ridley Scott. "Passengers" is a film that tries to play on human emotions, serving us a story about two passengers who wake up prematurely from hibernation.

Actually, one of them wakes up prematurely, only to wake up the other out of boredom and obsession. Unfortunately, the film would have been better if it had gone in the direction of a thriller because it still has that dose of sleaziness from the main male character, but it veers into classic Hollywood lemonade with pumped-up action scenes.

If You Were the Last© Peacock / Youtube channel

"If You Were the Last" (2023), Kristian Mercado's debut, takes everything serious in science fiction films, including science and logic, and throws it out the window, leaving only emotion and chemistry between the two main characters, which doesn't make it much of a science fiction film but rather a romantic comedy unlike any you've seen in a while.

Stuck in space because their ship broke down, Jane (Zoë Chao) and Adam (Anthony Mackie) float in space without hope of ever returning home to their spouses. It's obvious that the chemistry between them is top-notch as they watch movies on old tapes and dance while listening to music on an old walkman.

Their space shuttle isn't exactly standard; they have a goat, chickens, and a kitchen. Adam grows marijuana trying to create a new hybrid by mixing it with blueberries, while Jane makes vibrators out of drills because they have to pass the time somehow.

But what happens when that chemistry takes a different turn, the logical one when two people who are attracted to each other find themselves confined for a long period? In early scenes, it’s impossible to imagine these two getting together even though their conversation flows so easily that Mercado occasionally has to shut it off so we can feel the pang of its absence.

Ironically, their bond seems too intimate — not just brother plus sister plus dog, but also best friend, workout buddy, dance partner, dinner date and science specialist charged to keep the other alive. They need each other like oxygen; adding intercourse would be too much to inhale, the nitrous in their air tank.

If You Were the Last© Peacock / Youtube channel

It all starts so innocently. Watching "The Eighth Passenger," which Adam has never seen. After that night, the question arises, what if we start having intercourse to relieve stress? A little cuddling because skin-to-skin contact helps.

I mean, we love our spouses, but we'll probably never see them again. Bad idea. Or good, depending on how you look at it. Their relationship changes from that moment and evolves from friendship into lust until they fix the ship and realize they'll go back home.

To their old lives. Sometimes people need to step away from their lives, spend some time away from everything to realize that even though they love the person they're with, they're not in love with them and they're not soulmates.

This film is precisely about that, in a silly way. Mercado is obviously a big fan of Wes Anderson because the set design and quirky script feel like a homage to Anderson, while the chemistry between Mackie and Chao is excellent.

Their dialogues flow, their relationship is close and intimate even before intercourse. They are siblings, friends, colleagues responsible for each other's safety. They exercise together, eat, and dance. Alone, they wouldn't survive, but together? The sky's the limit.

Although Jane is pragmatic, she's very emotional and fragile. Adam is the one who protects her. She feels safe in his presence. He's the one who sings Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" to her when her walkman breaks down in a scene that is probably the cutest thing you'll see in a while.

Although this film could have become a boring, generic romantic comedy, Mercado ensured that it doesn't happen by offering us the best romantic comedy in recent years. IMDb rating: 6.3/10 Rotten Tomatoes rating: 87%