I expected Seeking a Friend for the End of the World to be a light and utterly forgettable foray into the ever-increasing genre of “Apocalypse” films. Never did I expect this film to be a transcendent and philosophical look at a person’s final days where the end is very real. The plot can become a tad hokey, especially around the romance between leads Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, but there’s never a doubt that the end is coming which makes the events feel believable. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World surprised me more than I expected.
An asteroid named Matilda is set to wipe out the Earth. As people struggle to find happiness in their final days poor Dodge (Carrell) has recently been dumped by his wife and hopes to reconnect with an old girlfriend. Dodge’s neighbor Penny (Knightley) has broken up with her boyfriend and wants to go home to see her family. The duo decide to make their way to find their respective loved ones and in the journey discover that sometimes the one next to you is all you need.
Since there have been so many Doomsday movies out recently it’s easy to expect this film to devolve into hysterics and rehash things that have been done before. In that sense, Seeking a Friend starts where most movies end; in that the Earth has tried several times to destroy Matilda and have failed. There’s no last chance for humanity story here, it’s essentially telling audiences “what do you do when everything you’ve seen in these films is wrong.” And with that writer Lorene Scarfaria shows us by following two characters trying to figure out how to spend their final days on Earth. Even with that story, the script never goes into cliché by showing the characters make bad decisions or devolve into chaos. We do see their friends and various other side characters do the cliché things like have wanton sex or spend exorbitant amounts of money but Dodge and Penny just want to be with the ones they love, something we don’t see enough of in this genre of films oddly enough. Their adventure kicks off and while they meet a lot of funny people along the way, including a really funny moment at a restaurant called Friendly’s that lives up to the name, but you never forget that Penny and Dodge just want to find happiness and love at the end of it. When the film does go the way of putting Penny and Dodge into a sexual relationship it may seem creepy and gross but only for an instance as the acting and the script tell you that this is the end people, if you find a good person to spend it with that’s love.
The acting is surprisingly strong throughout. Steve Carell never gets too wacky for the plot or falls into making faces. This is probably the strongest push into dramatic territory I’ve seen from the actor. The same for Keira Knightley, an actress I’m not particularly fond of. The film could have forced her into the role of manic pixie dream girl but she’s more than that. She’s a woman who’s obviously made some mistakes that have estranged her from her family, and the phone call she makes to them feels genuine and sad. Martin Sheen also does a great job in the role of Dodge’s father.
The film does have a few too many wacky moments that have been ruined in the trailer. The Friendly’s scene mentioned above and the party put on by Dodge’s friends feels stale because they’re used to market this as a comedy. It’s a comedy sure but there’s a firm push into drama by the end, especially when this movie doesn’t give the Earth a last-minute reprieve.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a strong movie that doesn’t pander to clichés or quick solutions. The acting is wonderful and the script is superb. If you have to see one film before the world ends (as rumored to be this year) make sure to see this!