Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

We’ve come a long way since blowing asteroids up with nukes. Films concerning themselves with the End of the World are not new, but productions on the apocalyptic genre have been ramping up leading to December 2012 thanks to the Mayans, misinformation, and general idiocy.

As with any genre, film-makers portray different variations of the same theme, from the aforementioned action-packed exploits of Michael Bay to the more emotional exploration of Lars von Trier, and so with Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World, we get Lorene Scafaria’s charming entry.

The film slyly begins with a humorous retort to Armageddon and its explosive premise. The ship carrying the asteroid-busting crew actually explodes before it even makes it to the rock. So Earth is screwed, and Dodge’s (Steve Carell) wife decides to ungraciously bale on her marriage by literally running out of their car.

One of the funniest aspects of the film is how humanity tries to retain a sense of normalcy and routine amid impending doom. Not the British stiff upper lip sort, but more of the ever-optimistic American kind. People continue going to the gym and mow their lawns in deadpan fashion.

Dodge finds himself wandering through human debris. The world’s fate is somehow an afterthought, with human relationships clearly the main cause of angst for the majority of people.

Abandoned by his wife, and with 14 days till The End, Dodge is forced to hobnob with strangers at a get-together organised by his friend (played by Rob Corddry) and his wife. “You don’t want to die alone!” his wife says. “He’s not gonna die alone, he’s gonna die with everyone else!” exclaims Corddry, the first of many cameos from comedy regulars. (my favourite being Gillian Jacobs from sitcom Community)

The world’s end lifts off everyone’s inhibitions, people are having sex without regard for disease, pregnancy, or as a random guy comically points out, women don’t care if guys won’t call them afterwards, if they’re not well endowed, or even if they’re related by family.

“Nobody is anybody’s anything anymore” a character tells Dodge after an inappropriate moment. This is the crux of the tale; that society’s rules begin to crumble not in violence like in John Hillcoat’s The Road, but in hedonistic nonchalance. Violence comes later in the form of obligatory street riots, as a plot device to force Dodge and his neighbour Penny (Keira Knightley) on the road as he journeys to find an old flame, and she finds a plane to reunite her with her family.

Along the way they learn more about each other and encounter misfits and unwanted reminders that their time is up and all their mistakes and regrets can never be undone, however the time they have left is still theirs to do with what they will.

Carell is too stoic and dour in this role, making his presence a drag, however his stoicism does lend to the film’s rousing climax. Knightley gives a spirited performance as the kooky Penny. You could base a drinking game over how many funny faces she pulls.

Seeking A Friend is a film that seems Judd Apatow-esque; and strangely dull for brief but consistent periods, yet has thoughtful moments sprinkled throughout, as well as brilliant spikes of humour. The most memorable being an assassination hit. Why are people getting assassinated with so little time left for the planet? Well, you might as well have some unpredictability in your life when your fate has suddenly become painfully inevitable.

There are many things predictable and inevitable about Lorene Scafaria’s debut film, but it’s still a genuine treat with heart and a moving ending.

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