There have been a lot of films about the end of the world. Movies like Armageddon to Night of the Comet have touched on the subject but few, if any, have ever taken the time to look at the event on a truly human scale. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World takes a chance by showing us the end of humanity but does so without melodrama or expensive CGI explosions. The result is a smart and passionate film about what it means to be human in the most extreme circumstances.
Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, Seeking A Friend tells the story of the final weeks of humanity. An Armageddon type rescue mission to stop an asteroid from hitting the Earth has failed and is set to strike the Earth in three weeks causing the end of the world. From the moment the announcement is made the entire world is changed. Suddenly people have nothing to lose. Phones services get turned off, planes stop traveling and the world essentially comes to a standstill.
Instead of looking at how the news has affected all of humanity the film instead focuses on the life of one man. Dodge (Steve Carell) is an average insurance salesman living in the city whose wife has just left him. Rather than freak out about the end of the world, he spends the early part of the film just trying to live a normal life as the world crumbles around him.
Dodge has always taken the safe path but the combination of the ‘end of days’ and a sudden divorce has left him more or less in a state of limbo. That is until he meets Penny (Keira Knightley) an eccentric that lives a few floors below him and has just broken up with her boyfriend. As the world becomes increasingly more unstable, Dodge realizes he wants to use his remaining time on Earth to find his long lost love and promises that if he can use Penny’s car he will drive her to a plane so she can see her parents in England.
Taking such an epic event and scaling it down to such a human level could be considered risky and, in all honesty, most audiences may not understand the restraint of the movie. Understandably the film has its share of weird. Filled with franchise food cults and overzealous cops, pilgrimages and riots, the movie takes an honest look at humanity.
Take, for instance, a scene early on in the film involving a party at Dodge’s friend’s house. A group of middle-aged adults sit around the table and what could be considered an otherwise normal dinner party discussing what they are going to do with the rest of their lives now that the apocalypse is here. “I’m going to finally take that pottery class and hopefully spend time with a special someone,” says one of the guests. When asked the same question Dodge has no real answers. “I think I might find God, maybe rearrange a few chairs.” As the party progresses and becomes wilder you can see the restraint slowly fading away in people.
Keeping that in mind it was an odd choice to fill the movie with comedic actors. Everyone from Patton Oswalt to Rob Corddry make an appearance adding a sense of comedy to the proceedings. The film’s ability to balance both drama and comedy shows a lot about the maturity of the movie. Even in the end of the world there is a reason to smile.
While both Dodge and Penny, two strangers who never would have met if it weren’t for the apocalypse, become closer the audience starts to really appreciate the good of humanity even in peril. The chips are down and the end is here but that doesn’t mean you can’t still find love and happiness, even if you know it won’t last.
Carell really was the perfect choice to play Dodge. His everyman quality allows you to really identify with him in times of crises. Knightly does a fantastic job as well playing against-type as an eccentric and clearly enjoying it.
If the movie falters at all it is due to some overly cliché dialogue in the final act, 10 minutes or so. In its defense, the characters are going through a major, catastrophic event and in that context, it could almost be forgiven.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is one of those rare and unique films that manages to get past all the typical dressings of modern movie making and really get to the heart of the matter. The movie shows that even when the world is ending, it’s really the little things that matter. It is impossible not to leave the film with a sense of sadness and hope for humanity.
Will everyone understand or appreciate the movie? No, probably not. But Seeking a Friendis well worth watching again and again. When I left the theater, I told a friend “Seeking A Friend was one of the best films I’ve seen in a long, long time. I can’t seem to get it out of my head. I’m seeing it again. I have to.” So should you!
Watch the trailer here.