"This ain't the Ark. It's the Titanic!"
End-of-the-world films don't get any less spectacular than this, but it is precisely why Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is one of year's surprise packages, an insightful look at what makes us human, when humanity is on the verge of being destroyed forever.
The film is an apocalyptic feature disguised as a romantic-comedy with serious dramatic material. Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, the unlikeliest of screen couples that you will see this year, take their characters on a journey that gives them hope despite the impending doom.
That doom will be caused by an asteroid that will hit Earth in a matter of weeks. And that doom has served up a host of thought-provoking ideas that writer-director Lorene Scafaria (who wrote the screenplay for Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008)) explores in the film.
What would you do, or for that matter, what would anyone or everyone do, when faced with the prospect of collective death? Some party as if it's the end of the world (well, they do get their wish), others return home to their families, while some prefer to be meditating alone to the sounds of that old vinyl record that they first bought in high school.
Carell's character, Dodge, is a lonely person. His wife leaves him in a panic in the film's prologue sequence. He finds solace in... himself, that is, until his neighbour, Penny (Knightely) whom he has never met, sobs uncontrollably at his window sill. Is this the start of an unlikely friendship? Perhaps an unlikely romance?
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World takes the ingredients of a conventional boy-meets-girl romantic-comedy, and spins it into a creative, unpredictable story. Scafaria tells her story with subtle dialogue, and composed imagery. It feels like a minimalist excursion, but it is still a fine emotional ride, with excellent laughs in store.
Knightley's acting is splendid, and surprisingly combines very well with Carell's straight-faced impersonation of himself. Mainstream viewers may find the film too melancholic. It is always depressing to see the world end, and especially so, when time is so short... to say your goodbyes, to find your one true love, to forgive and forget, and to relive and remember.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World eschews spectacularity for a more intimate look at the fragility of human relationships. In the end, that is what matters. Do give this excellent indie offering a try.