Saturday, 21 July 2012

Film review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Director/Writer: Lorene Scafaria
Main Cast: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley.
Runtime: 101 minutes
Certificate: 15 (UK)
Brief Summary: As an asteroid nears Earth, a man finds himself alone after his wife leaves in a panic. He decides to take a road trip to reunite with his high school sweetheart. Accompanying him is a neighbor who inadvertently puts a wrench in his plan.
Tagline: The end is coming soon

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is the newest offering from writer/director Lorene Scafaria, (whose previous work includes Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist), and is a tale of "unexpected romance blossoming between two strangers while on an impromptu road trip."  Oh, and is set in a world on the verge of an apocalypse - but that is very much a subplot...

The film opens with Dodge (Carell) being left by wife Linda (Nancy Carell) just as a radio announcer confirms that giant asteroid 'Matilda' is on her way and they have three weeks left until doomsday.  With no-one else left to spend his remaining time on Earth with, Dodge continues to carry on with his everyday life, whilst everyone around him engages in indulgent hedonism.  That is until he encounters flighty and flaky neighbour Penny (Knightley) who is in possession of a letter from his first love, Olivia. Together the pair embark on a road trip to reunite with their loved ones.

The film takes a while to get going, but eventually it finds its feet, and it works.  Seeking a Friend has grappled with some criticism, specifically that it seems to skirt around what should be the main premise of the film - the end of all things, which in turn takes a back-seat to what appears to be another road-trip movie, with all the usual romance/chick-flick clich├ęs.  Whilst this is true, it is actually quite refreshing to see an apocalyptic film approached from a different angle, that isn't extraterrestrial, full of huge explosions and/or extreme weather gone wrong.  This one is small and sweet, and paints what I believe to be a truer perspective of what most people would do if faced with 3 weeks left on Earth.  Yes there is rioting, but there are also pilgrimages, loved ones reuniting, and generally a lot of 'tying up loose ends'.

The character development is my favourite thing about the film.  The blossoming friendship between Dodge and Penny is endearing and entirely believable.  There is enormous depth to both characters and it is these performances that make the small moments so poignant, in particular the phone conversation between Penny and her family back in the UK.

If I had to give criticism?  The asteroid abruptly arriving earlier seems like an odd, unexplained and unnecessary plot twist and made the film suddenly feel jerky and rushed.

In the end, the film doesn't concern itself with THE end, instead with those important moments prior to the end, and what you choose to do with it.

My rating:3.5/5