Apparently mowing the lawn, going to the gym, cycling, putting up dating ads on outside notice boards, checking mail, vacuuming, flossing teeth and doing a myriad of other boring, mundane things is something that people continue to do 21 days before an asteroid with a monkey-ish name (Matilda) is set to hit the Earth and destroy every living being on it. It’s refreshing to see these normal actions in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, a sad rom-com-Armageddon-road-trip movie that will leave many a viewer smiling, even if with tears in their eyes, and it’s a nice break from the dark and dusty apocalyptic dystopias we are so used to by now, with no glimpse of hope anywhere in sight.
The Unlikely End
Not to say that Seeking a Friend for the End of the World ignores the sex orgies, incessant intoxication sessions, street violence, greed, and despair altogether. It glances at them, but its gaze is directed elsewhere. The movie wonderfully opens up a wider range of how humans “do” apocalyptic events. Ordinary people try to cope with the tragedy differently: some by predictably turning to drugged sex, others, less predictably, by sticking to their crappy maid jobs and insisting on saying ‘see you next week’ with sweet, persistent smiles.
The Last Road Trip
Dodge Peterson (Steve Carell) is an insurance worker who continues to robotically go through the motions after he hears the news of the imminent end and his unhappy wife flees. He goes to work, chats with his maid, and checks his mailbox, which is empty, time after time after time.
Weed-smoking, cough-syrup-drinking Penny (Keira Knightley) lands on his window after she misses the last plane to her native U.K., realizing she will never see her loved ones again, sobbing uncontrollably, and promising ‘not to steal anything.’ The next morning they part, but during an awkward conversation in the hallway Penny unwittingly reveals a dark secret about Dodge’s wife.
Dodge is so distraught he drinks window cleaner, but instead of finding peace in death he finds a dog. When riots break out, he rushes to Penny’s flat to warn her – and somehow the trio of gloomy man, flaky girl, and faithful dog find themselves on a road trip, Penny to find a plane to fly her back home and Dodge to seek out an old flame before the end of days.
They meet different people and go different places but the best moments are their quiet times together with their dog, a mini family bonded by a love they are too timid to acknowledge at first. They go to the beach and play with other people’s children; Penny listens to her newborn niece coo on the phone.
When the end comes, it’s bitter but it’s also sweet – the best end of the world that could possibly be filmed. Those moments are what you want them to be: the celebration of new life or the imminence of untimely death. Two sides to every coin.
It’s hard to call Seeking a Friend for the End of the World a romantic comedy but it is the best one I’ve seen in years, and without the stupid clichés and Hollywood conventions we are all so sick of. Writer-director Lorene Scafaria took the apocalyptic genre from darkness to light skilfully, celebrating characters that sometimes fall to the lowest of lows but are also capable of soaring to the highest of heights, and being beautiful at it.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is presented by Focus Features as a Blu-Ray/DVD combo (including Ultraviolet Digital Copy) in 2.35:1 aspect ratio that looks amazing. The audio quality allows for the full enjoyment of the film’s great soundtrack. There are optional English, Spanish and French subtitles. Bonus features include cast and crew commentary, outtakes (8 min), featurette (4 min) and Music for the End of the World (2 min), interesting for fellow survivalists as cast and crew members share their end of the world playlists.
Verdict: Humanist art, of cinema in this case, isn’t dead. Existentialists still ask their big questions, and sometimes even tap into some important answers. So what would I do before the end of the world? Watch movies like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World hand in hand with someone I love.