The end of the world has fascinated humans inexplicably for thousands of years. What is it about the topic that is so enticing? Films dealing with the apocalypse tend to be big budget action films where the crisis is conveniently avoided just at the right moment. Very few filmmakers (or studios backing a film) have the guts to go all out and make an end of the world movie actually about the end of the world. There won’t always be Bruce Willis to save the day. “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” isn’t afraid to take risks along the way to keep itself apart from the average rescuing the world flick.
In fact, the entire apocalyptic backdrop isn’t the main conflict of the film. Sure, it’s what causes all of the action, but the film is about regret, love, and the choices that make life meaningful. Unlike its awful broad trailers, this is a sweet film that takes the viewer to emotional places and tells its story unflinchingly every step along the way. The plot is quite brilliant – the last efforts to save earth from the impact of an asteroid are thwarted and now everyone has to live their last month out however they please. As one could reasonably assume, this results in growing chaos and an increasing disregard for human decency, responsibility, and loyalty.
We are first introduced to our protagonist, Dodge (played by Steve Carrell), as his wife leaves him upon hearing the apocalyptic news. He muses about the irony of this considering he got married so he wouldn’t have to die alone. Dodge ends up receiving some of his mail that was accidentally delivered to Penny (Keira Knightley) who lives in the same building. There he finds a letter from his old sweetheart – the one that got away. Dodge and Penny form a partnership as they escape a riot and go in search of this woman. As they go on their apocalyptic roadtrip, we are introduced to a variety of characters and ways to deal with death.
Writer/director Lorene Scafaria maintains as light a tone as is probably possible while still respecting her dark premise. There are many humorous moments in the film – some fit the narrative more than others – often coming from cameos from comic actors like Patton Oswalt and T.J. Miller, but the film really shines in its touching moments. It takes about half of the film before the heart begins to overpower the laughs and it really works quite well. Rather than keeping a detached tone, Scafaria gives us enough time with these flawed characters to really care about what they are going through and begin to feel the anxiety of knowing your time is up. These dramatic moments showcase life at its best as well as its worst.
Neither of the two main characters are particularly happy with their current lives or the choices they have made to get to where they are. Now that life seems more fleeting than ever, the remedies start off as a necessity before death before they mold into something far more simple and human. This is not “The Bucket List,” it is a story about love. To label it as a romantic comedy is to miss the key points it makes about how much life can be miserable and yet it’s something everyone clings to desperately. This film makes you feel and think, and leaves you with a mixture of emotions that few films do.
Sure, not everything works. The performances are all strong – full of emotion and solid comedic timing. There are some strange moments that keep the narrative from flowing flawlessly, but “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” surprisingly manages to be strong enough to overcome all its weaknesses by the time it is finished. In the end, it exists almost as the antithesis of Lars von Trier’s similar intimate apocalyptic tale “Melancholia.” Sure, life can be awful, but you being depressed and cynical will never feel quite as fulfilling as finding something to be happy about.
Scafaria is certainly a filmmaker to watch out for and this film is one that deserves to be given a chance. It’s not life changing, but it’s certainly worth the precious time you have before any apocalypse really happens.
Seeking A Friend For The End of the World is released in UK cinemas from July 13th, 2012.
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