Monday 23 July 2012

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World

All’s World That Ends World

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World 
2012 USA/Singapore/Malaysia/Indonesia 
Directed by Lorene Scafaria
Playing at UK cinemas now

Warning: Big, big, big spoiler giving away the film’s ending in here. If this is one you definitely want to see... you might want to carefully consider this before reading.

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World is not the movie I was expecting it to be.

But that’s good, actually. Because, rather than being the nauseating US romantic comedy with a cornball ending I thought it was going to be... it actually turned out, instead, to be more the movie I was hoping it would be. Which is a turn up for the books.

To explain... I had nothing invested in this movie. I like Keira Knightley as an actress, for sure, but I’d only ever seen Steve Carell once in a movie (the latest remake of Get Smart) and I didn’t know the writer/director, Lorene Scafaria’s work either. I just saw the trailer and saw what looked like a fairly gentle movie with a little bit of a bite to it in that, you know, it’s about the end of the world and such. The end of humanity. The death knell for our entire species.

But then I figured... modern US movie. This is going to be a light romantic comedy, which in some ways it actually is, and it won’t exactly have an ending where it “does what it says on the tin”, so to speak. So I decided I wouldn’t go and see it because, frankly, I don’t like modern US romantic comedies all that much. They tend to have no real substance to them. As far as the last ten or twenty years go, I generally tend to prefer romantic movies if they’re made by the French. I don’t know why but they just seem to have more of a real life, up close and personal relation to this kind of subject matter and dare to show love as it truly is... compared to a lot of the US (and even UK) films of this nature which I’ve seen. So I pretty much had stopped going to them.

But then, when I had to meet a friend in London on Saturday and we decided to go to the cinema, there was nothing else really on at the time I was around for (I’d already seen The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises, which seem to be dominating a fair amount of screens over here) and so we settled on this movie.

I’m really glad we did because, much to my surprise, it actually does do what it says on the tin.

Steve Carell plays a downbeat insurance salesman whose wife leaves him after the announcement that the final attempt to save the earth from destruction by asteroid collision has failed. This all happens before the title of the film has even come up. The character he plays, Dodge, trundles depressingly on even as those around him are either killing themselves or having apocalyptic end-of-the-world sex with each other. He meets a girl called Penny (played by Knightley who is, as always, excellent), from the apartment downstairs from his... and when the rioting and looting starts in their area they set off on a road journey to try to a) reunite him with his first ever sweetheart and b) to get Penny to his dad who will be able to fly her back to England in his plane to meet up with her family... it’s the last month of life on planet Earth and the airways have stopped flying.

True... over the course of their journey they bond and become romantically entangled, but that’s okay and can be a nice thing if the tone is caught right in a movie... which it is here. But there’s always the dark reminders of the character’s plight of, you know, dying by the end of the month and their adventures on the road are at times violent and at times comical but the low key, laid back approach that the film seems to create around its lead characters is nicely handled and doesn’t once become boring.

I said, before I saw this film, that I was hoping that this would be the American answer to Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. And it kinda is in a way. It’s like a more cheerful, less introspective alternative to Von Trier’s masterpiece. Luckily, the two leads are able to more than make up for the lack of comedy bells and whistles set pieces which a lot of films of this nature might have resorted to. And that’s something to be thankful for.

At the end of the day though (or even end of the world), the surprising thing is that it doesn’t cop out and give the planet Earth a reprieve like you are expecting it to. Dodge and Penny have finally figured out that what they want from the world is really just, each other. They lay talking on a bed and their conversation gets interrupted by the boom of the asteroid entering earths atmosphere in the sound mix and I remember I leaned over to my friend at that point and said... “I wish these guys would just roll the credits here, that would be perfect.” And then, about ten seconds later, they did just that. A white out as the characters finally find each other but die at the end of the world... is followed by the end credits. A perfect ending for this movie and I was really grateful that Hollywood didn’t go for the unbearably happy ending on this one.

Written and then directed with a deft touch by Lorene Scafaria and well acted by all the principal cast (including Martin Sheen as Dodge’s estranged father), Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World is not, as the quotes on the posters may have you believe, “a feel good movie”... but it’s certainly a nice movie about love and loss and the way the pursuit of something can sometimes lead you to finding something you weren’t looking for, which turns out to be exactly what you need. If you like gentle movies with just a dash of, admittedly lightweight, depth to them, then this movie is highly recommended.


  1. A totally uneven film, but somewhat lifted up by Carell and Knightley’s performances. Hopefully, Keira picks up more comedic roles for her because she’s actually pretty damn good at them believe it or not. Good review.

  2. Hi again,

    I actually liked the downbeat of it. If anything, for me, it was a little too happy.

    Yeah, Keira is pretty cool.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.