Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is one of those films with a special feel that is difficult to capture in a two-minute movie trailer. Yes, you know it’s going to be a quirky film about finding love and rediscovering humanity as the apocalypse is pending, but what makes this movie unique is its attention to the little things that people take for granted as they go about their daily lives and how the film subtly coerces you to focus on things that you normally would never pay attention to.
At its core this is a romantic comedy and a buddy road-trip film, and although it has plenty of adventure, love & sex and lots of laughs, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is heart-breaking as you pity the ways in which some of its characters squander the final days of their lives. It is also heart-warming in its portrayal of the dignified way that others choose to meet their end.
The film begins with the aptly named Dodge (Steve Carell) sitting in a car with his wife listening to a radio announcement that the world has failed in its last attempt to prevent a giant asteroid from striking the Earth and destroying it. They only have days to live and Dodge’s wife steps out of the vehicle and runs away, leaving him on the spot. The announcer then reminds the audience of the upcoming “End of the World Awareness Concert” and the tone is set for the rest of the movie.
The absurdity of the media with its traffic reports and countdown clocks all ring true in this very smart script by Lorene Scafaria. Seeking a Friend is also her first feature-film directorial effort and she has created a wonderful movie that is witty, thoughtful and I think realistic regarding how the world might actually react in the face of impending doom, with many people just going about their lives as if nothing were happening, while others go to the extremes of both good and bad.
Dodge is an insurance salesman who is obviously going to have to settle the biggest block of claims in history. He experiences seeing his friends and co-workers for their true selves and is depressed at what he feels has been his wasted life. He begins an unexpected friendship with one of his neighbors, a free-spirited young British woman named Penny (Keira Knightley), who he has lived by for three years but has never spoken to before.
As city riots and looting start hitting close to their homes, Dodge & Penny hit the road in search of his long lost first-love and to try and find a way to get Penny home to her family across the ocean. On their journey the two opposites become close to each other in ways they never expected, and I certainly didn’t expect things to end in the satisfying way they did in this film.
The performances are fantastic in Seeking a Friend and Steve Carell stands out as a great dramatic actor. He has certainly joined the ranks of hilarious comedians, like Robin Williams and Jim Carrrey, who can also tug a heart-string given the right material. There are also cameos in this movie by Patton Oswalt, William Petersen, Rob Corddry and Martin Sheen.
They say that when you die your life flashes before your eyes, but let’s hope it’s not everything, or just the big things, but that it’s only the important things – like being fascinated by a spider, or your dog comforting you when you’re upset, or finding your true love – or enjoying a film as true and gratifying as this one.