Seeking A Friend for the End of the World poses the opposite issue to most ‘giant asteroid heading to destroy the earth’ stories and tells us from minute one that all hope is lost and it will be the end of days in two weeks time.
This premise sets up an interesting opening act, there is a lot of comedy in the responses people make to this revelation and writer/director Lorene Scarfaria makes the most of these sequences, here in her debut movie. We see people react with violence, opportunity and acceptance all with a wry eye that highlights the same reactions people make to, in context, insignificant moments. At the centre of this is Steve Carell’s Dodge; his wife literally runs away when the announcement comes that the world is to end and he struggles to adapt, failing miserably to tell his housekeeper she no longer needs to come to work and refusing to join his friends on a hedonistic lifestyle of orgies and constant drinking.
It is as he reflects on his life that he meets Keira Knightley’s Penny, a neighbour who he had encountered several times but never spoken to. They form an instant bond and set off on a mission (prompted by the looting of their apartment) to reunite Dodge with his lost love and Penny with her family.
The film flies in this relationship as Carell and Knightley both perform solidly and allow their fledgling relationship grow through their trials and tribulations.Whether visiting a theme restaurant that is still providing its over-the-top service, hitching a lift with a man obsessed with assassinations (played by a superb William Peterson) or getting incarcerated for speeding they learn about each other and develop their affection incrementally, in performances that Scarfaria allows to mature at a controlled pace.
Both performers are held back by some over jealous writing ticks that can be forgiven, to an extent, for a debut. Knightley struggles with the ‘quirky’ narcolepsy her character suffers with seemingly only as a character trait rather than an integral part of the storytelling, while Carell has to ignore some pretty spectacular plot holes to keep his character believable. It is the forced characters that draw away from the strength of this movie, the journey of two people towards an unattainable goal.
Supporting roles are played by Adam Brody, who quickly accelerates to make himself a dispensable part of Penny’s backstory and Martin Sheen appears in some clever casting that pays dividends. Scarfaria has been able to attract a very strong cast for her first film and it is a testament to her abilities that they all put in such strong performances.
Ultimately, Seeking A Friend for the End of the World could have, and should have, been simpler. There was no need for the character quirks and the complications of what is an engaging and interesting story. The screenplay is also guilty of having two endings and although it is hard to say which one is better, a more experienced director would have chosen one. Both endings are handled intelligently and are genuinely moving it’s just a shame that Scarfaria didn’t commit to just one of them.
This film is an interesting exploration of the human condition and our searches for love. Carell and Knightley are given the space to shine in the lead roles and they are ably supported by a new filmmaker who, from this evidence, has a successful career ahead of her.
- Keira Knightley – Keira Knightley To Star In Jack Ryan (contactmusic.com)
- Steve Carell, Keira Knightley talk dark comedy film ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World’ (abclocal.go.com)
- Will you be Keira Knightley’s friend? (canada.com)
- Keira Knightley Wears Ring Discovered on Etsy, in the Movie “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” co-starring Steve Carell (prweb.com)