Seeking a Friend at the End of the World Poster Focus Features (Photo : Poster Focus Features)
Post-apocalyptic themes have become increasingly popular over the last decade. From grim and raw portrayals of a desecrated universe in "The Road" to the special effects laden "2012" to the impending doom created by human misery in "Melancholia," the end of the world has taken on many faces throughout the years. However, none of them have been jovial affairs on the silver screen. Lorene Scfaria's "Seeking a Friend at the End of the World" represents one of the first attempts to give the apocalypse some charm and tenderness.
Like Us on Facebook
In the face of the apocalypse, Dodge (Steve Carell), a lonely insurance broker decides to take a road trip to reunite with his high school sweetheart after his wife leaves him. When he meets his neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley), world changes as their relationship deepens.
The idea of reconnection permeates the film as the lonely Penny and Dodge seek one last chance at human connection. Dodge has always lived in function of his work and as a result found his wife cheating on him. His lack of human relationships extends to his lack of connection with his mother or father. Penny's continuous decision to prioritize her boyfriends over her family has left her equally bereft. In the face of an empty death, her wish is to return to England to heal her relationship with her family before it is too late.
The two characters ultimately decide to help one another on their treks to wholeness; Penny will help Dodge find his sweetheart if Dodge reunites her with her family. What results is a road movie in which the characters come into contact with diverse people dealing with the end of the world in diverse ways.
The film's main attraction is its two shining stars. Steve Carell comes through with one of his best performances. He retains his trademark social awkwardness and alienation, but also adds a tinge of melancholia and warmth not generally associated with the comedian.
Keira Knightley is known for her costume dramas and often borderline theatrical performances (See "A Dangerous Method"). This film portrays one of her more subtle turns and also speaks to her range as an actress. This is not only the dramatic heroine of 2007 "Atonement" or "A Dangerous Method," but also the comedic woman that made her a star in the 2003 "Pirates of the Caribbean." One highlight of her performance is when she finally gets the opportunity to talk over her differences with her parents. Knightly fights her hardest to retain emotional control, but slowly disintegrates as the moment expands. The tension of waiting for her breakdown is riveting and captivating.
In the supporting roles thespian Patton Oswalt engages with his customary comedic gags while Martin Sheen delivers a deeply moving performance customarily expected from the actor.
Ultimately the film's greatest achievement is not how it ducks away from its thematic material, but how it refuses to accept it with the persistent pessimism of films in the genre. This is a not a post-apocalyptic film that endlessly emphasizes the negativity of the world. In the face of a crumbling world around us, "Seeking a Friend at the End of the World" chooses to emphasize its beauty. The world's existential message is that even though the prevention of death is impossible, happiness is not only possible but its search is also essential to the human condition.