Reactions directly after a film first plays at the Cannes Film Festival can often lend itself to the dramatic. A few films that have already premiered to polarizing first impressions include Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper and Nicholas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon – both film reportedly had impassioned festival attendees booing after the screenings yet both seem to have found critical support in other areas. It’s a different story for Sean Penn’s The Last Face, a humanitarian drama directed by the 2-time Oscar winner and featuring Oscar winners Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem.
The competition title isn’t finding much love anywhere with many critics arguing that the film may be the worst so far in competition this year. Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn simply expressed, “It’s his worst movie.” The Last Face centers around an international aid director (Theron, who dazzled Cannes audiences one year ago with the Oscar-winning Mad Max: Fury Road) and her building relationship with a relief doctor (Bardem) while in the midst of political and social unrest in Africa. Adéle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color), Jean Reno (Alex Cross) and Jared Harris (Lincoln) also star. Erin Dignam (The Yellow Handkerchief) wrote the screenplay. Currently the film doesn’t have U.S. distribution, something which may prove an uphill battle.
Penn, who last appeared on screen in the thriller The Gunman and oddly enough voices a part in the now open animated flick The Angry Birds Movie, previously directed four features films: The Indian Runner (1991), The Crossing Guard (1996), The Pledge (2001) and Into the Wild (2007). All four previous features received fairly strong marks from critics.
Other critics and Cannes attendees have taken to Twitter to express their distaste in the film. Here’s a sample of the early reaction:
I joined in the booing for my first time today for The Last Face. It was so bad that I laughed at loud at times.
— Melissa Silverstein (@melsil) May 20, 2016
THE LAST FACE: A transcendently bad movie about aid workers and African suffering. But to its credit, the romance is actually worse. — Alison Willmore (@alisonwillmore) May 20, 2016
Is it possible Charlize Theron saw a rough cut of THE LAST FACE and *then* ended things with Sean Penn? I would. — Guy Lodge (@GuyLodge) May 20, 2016
Elapsed time in THE LAST FACE before the audience started laughing at it: Maybe 30 seconds. That’s not an exaggeration. — Mike D’Angelo (@gemko) May 20, 2016