What would you do if you knew for a fact you had only 3 more weeks to live? What would you do if you knew for a fact the entire world would end in 3 weeks? Acclaimed scribe Lorene Scafaria, now making her directorial debut on her own script, tries to answer that question in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.”
In an industry that relies so heavily on big action scenes and more explosions per film that one would care to count, it's almost a relief to see one that tackles such a huge subject without actually going overboard with it.
Pushed as a “comedy” in promo materials but three parts drama and just one part comedy, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” kicks off by stating its own expiration date: an asteroid named Matilda is on a collision course to Earth and the last attempt to destroy it has failed.
Humanity has only 3 more weeks left and there isn't a thing anyone can do to change that.
Dodge (Steve Carrell) and his wife (Carrell's wife in real life, Nancy) are sitting in their car, listening to the tragic news. While she reacts to it by fleeing from the car – and his life – in one final, desperate attempt at experiencing all those things she couldn't by his side, Dodge remains eerily unmoved.
He is so apparently emotionless than he even continues suiting up and going to work every single day when he doesn't have to.
Around him, the world is crumbling: “the sky is falling, man.”
His friends, whom we're to believe were once just as rigid as he is, use this opportunity to do the things they never dared dream of: there's some serious partying going on, drug use, drinking, lewd behavior and pretty much anything else you can think of.
Those who are not rioting and looting in the streets, are either living life to the fullest while they still can (there are some serious hippie vibes here) or going into lockdown mode in underground shelters, hoping against all odds to survive the impact.
Dodge seems to be the only one who wants no part in any of this: he's lived such a dull life that the regrets he's now burdened with seem too heavy for his shoulders. So he simply gives up.
Luckily, Penny (Keira Knightley) is willing to help him. Where Dodge is the very definition of “boring,” Penny is the exact opposite: he never had the courage to live his life, but she has lived hers in the fast lane and doesn't plan to stop now, especially since she knows this is really it.
With doom looming, their final wishes take shape: Dodge would like to see the love of his life once more (Olivia, his high school darling) and Penny wants to go home to Britain to be with her family.
She promises to drive him to Olivia, but only because he tells her he knows someone with a plane who could help her get back to the UK – you see, all commercial flights have been grounded.
The road trip is basically a wonderful opportunity for Scafaria to give the two the time they need to know each other and fall in love. It's also just the thing she needs to introduce audiences into her own take on the apocalypse – and trust us, she does it in such an understated and touching way that it's quite impossible not to relate to events on screen.
There's a feeling of disjointedness to the film that makes it hard to say whether Scafaria is mocking her own characters and the audiences, or feeling love towards both. Scenes of extreme violence are sprinkled with healthy doses of humor, while some events / actions are downright absurd especially considering the context (it's the end of the world, after all).
Perhaps the most regrettable thing about the film is that it fails to convey the idea of urgency, even though it claims from the start that humanity is on the clock. Dodge and Penny have only so little time to live but they're clearly in no rush to getting where they want to be, which makes their decision to leave in the first place questionable.
Even so, it's difficult not to feel anything during “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” If you'd consider it a romantic comedy, think of it in terms of the most endearing and original one so far. If you choose to think of it as an apocalyptic film, believe it's the one with the biggest heart to come out these past few years.
It's hard to picture Carrell and Knightley as love interests, but that's the whole gist: you were never supposed to be rooting for them, or to expect a romance at all.
In the end, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” whether comedy or drama, remains a film about the choices we make and how they shape our life – even if it's as short as 3 weeks.
“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” runs for 101 minutes, and is rated R for language and brief violence. It opened in the US on June 22, is now running in the UK and Russia, and will conclude its run in Germany on September 20.
It's a relief to see apocalyptic movies can still have a heart after years of Hollywood blockbusters. Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley make for the most unlikely and, because of it, surprising romantic pairing of the past years.
“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” will surprise you if you give it the time.
“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” is dragged down by a slow pace and lack of motivation. There's also a feeling of disjointedness to many scenes that bugs, even if it was intentional.
Far from perfect, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” deserves a fighting chance to prove its worth.
Here is a movie with a heart and, just like everything else with a heart, it too is flawed but none the less impressive for it.