After an embarrassing decline into populist mediocrity that bottomed out with Finding Forrester, Gus Van Sant has seemed to find his own voice again with a series of editorial-free, winding narratives of which Last Days is his latest.
Like Gerry and Elephant, Last Days is a bare bones undertaking which examines an issue by looking through a number of perspectives but denies the audience any suture (the ability to relate to a character or understand that character's point of view). Instead, the camera follows the characters almost randomly, capturing their beauty and confusion without offering any answers or judgments.
Last Days is a thinly veiled fictionalization of the end of Kurt Cobain's life in the same way that Elephant was a thinly veiled fictionalized recreation of the Columbine massacre. Unlike that film, Last Days falters in its attempt to create a compelling portrait and instead only offers moments of intense beauty among periods of random boredom.
There are moments that make this film worth seeing. The two most dramatic involve the main character loosing himself in his music. These scenes are breathtaking and helped me to forgive the film for being less consistent throughout.
Those who like answers are going to be disappointed in Van Sant's new approach. Those who want their films to let you know how to feel are going to be disappointed. Those who want to experience storytelling without being spoon-fed will appreciate the results but Last Days is no masterpiece and not that memorable. It is worth checking out but nowhere near as satisfying as Elephant.