Movie #5 on my journey to the Old World was Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. This quiet little dramatic comedy, which I had never heard of before, stars Steve Carrell and Kiera Knightley, and basically completely breaks away from the Battleship vibe which had characterized my trip so far. Maybe because this film came after we’d landed in Dubai and transferred to the next flight.
In any case, I quite like Steve Carrell and so figured this movie would be at least worth a look, and I was not disappointed. The film has a bit of a Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind vibe, with a well known comedian (and star of an Almighty film) playing a withdrawn personality whose life is shaken up by the presence of an unpredictable and somewhat flighty woman who is played by a popular English actress, all in a movie with quite a long title. This film isn’t as rich as that previous work, but remains an enjoyable though bittersweet love story set on a canvas of a world going through a unique form of turmoil.
The movie establishes its premise in a brilliantly economic piece of film making: Steve Carrell and his wife (both in the film and in real life) listen to a radio announcer telling them that humanity’s last attempt to stop an asteroid from destroying the earth has failed, and that only three weeks remain for everyone. Then, wordlessly, the wife storms out of the car and out of the husband’s life. This leads Dodge (Carrell’s character) to come to the sad realization that his marriage isn’t what he thought it was, and that in many ways his life wasn’t all that worth living in the first place.
The story contrives to connect him with his neighbour, Penny, played charmingly by Kiera Knightley, who despairs over her inability to see her family again. Along with Penny comes the news that the original love of Dodge’s life has actually attempted to connect with him again. The two end up on the road together, attempting to help each other fulfill their “dying wishes”.
On their journey, Dodge and Penny encounter a colorful assortment of characters who represent the many and varied ways one could deal with the knowledge of the end of everything. There are those who just get drunk and have fun, those who surrender to the inevitable, those who remain determined to survive, and those who just carry on because they don’t know what else to do. Upon this backdrop we learn about our two viewpoint characters, who at the same time learn about themselves. The circumstances compel them to examine the forces that have shaped them into the kind of people they are, to re-evaluate their sense of what’s important, and to find the best way to move forward, even if they know that the time they have left is measured in days.
The film is pretty funny, but even so it doesn’t look or feel like either a traditional romantic comedy or romantic drama, because the story is not really about the challenges and obstacles that the couple face to being together. Rather, it’s about two people whose encounter with one another allows them to discover who they really are. The romance that develops out of that feels unformed and believable. As such, I recommend it. If you can accept the extreme and inevitably sad premise, it’s a worthwhile and satisfying emotional journey.