In Marc Forster’s humorless thriller, going insane is an exciting, luxurious affair. People suffer stylishly; depressives are angry and dirty; they make art, carry guns, and live in magnificent houses. Henry Lethem (Ryan Gosling), a Columbia student who does gigantic, abstract paintings that won’t make him famous, decides to commit suicide in three days—his “great work of art.” His therapist (Ewan McGregor), who wears shockingly short pants but still has a pretty girlfriend (Naomi Watts), tries to help by tracking down anyone the boy knows. Sam’s a dream of a shrink, delightfully devoted and so in touch with his patients’ problems that he forgets about everything else. The inevitable suicide at the center of Gus Van Sant’s Last Days is lulling and subtle—the artist-hero just slips away. Here, Forster brings a world-shaking bombast to the event: To a pulsing, string-heavy symphony, all of New York seems on the verge of collapse. Buildings change locations and the streets gleam with unearthly amounts of rain. Henry’s delusions are dramatized in the form of unabashedly vague and circular plot twists. A boy with a silver balloon keeps asking, “Mama, is that man going to die?” But Henry’s plan for suicide is full of hope. It feels less like a dead end than a creative decision, a chance for some rock ‘n’ roll and a “mind-bending” flourish of special effects.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 18, 2005