Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Lorene Scafaria sets herself a very high goal for her directorial debut, writing a character rom-com about emotional feelings connected to an imminent end of the world, a subject previously exploited by 1998 Canadian movie Last Night and by Lars von Trier’s Melancholia.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World begins with the news of a space mission failure to blow up an oncoming meteor. The end of the world is predicted in 21 days. At this point we meet Dodge (Steve Carrel), whose wife runs away from their loveless marriage at the news of the disaster. After some days of real apathy, Dodge meets his bohemian neighbour Penny (Keira Knightley), who sleeps a lot, records vinyl records and misses her family who live in England.
The film starts well with a sort of apocalyptic suspense, and the early scenes capture a believable city on the verge of collapse, but it turns quickly into a hybrid between Lost in Translation and Garden State. The only problem is that the movie is too focused on the main characters, without spending enough energy showing what might be happening in the 21 days leading up to the end of the world.
There are some brilliant ideas and occasional cameos, but nothing is considered enough to really connect: in particular, the themes of doing all those things never tried before, or a family reunion for Carell, get only shallow exploration.
Moreover, both actors seem awkward soul-mates and never really click. Their physical presences are really mismatches, with a considerable age gap and completely different acting styles; Carell even looks almost narcoleptic for the first half of the movie.
Scafaria, having also adapted the script for Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, apparently has a penchant for love stories about mismatched couples thrown together by the inexplicable alchemy of destiny. As in her first film, she makes a clever use of music, trying to fill the film’s romantic credibility with Hollies’ The Air That I Breathe and two songs by The Walker Brothers.
The film has wit to spare and also an irresistible melancholy that could have been better channelled. But Scafaria wanted a kind of inexpressive acting from Carell and that did not help either putting all the elements together in a meaningful whole, or creating a true romantic comedy worth the end of the world.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is on general release 13th July.
Watch the trailer here: