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There’s no denying that life is hard these days: jobs are difficult to come by, money is tight and relationships end with alarming frequency. Nevertheless, sometimes we need to gain a little perspective and realise that none of these things actually are the end of the world.
The same cannot be said for Dodge (Steve Carell) and Penny (Keira Knightley), the two main characters in Lorene Scarfaria’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. The unlikely pair are thrown together upon learning that the asteroid commonly known as ‘Matilda’ will destroy the Earth in just twenty-one days. While Penny is desperate to catch a plane from the US across the Atlantic in order to see her family in England, Dodge resolves to try to find his high school sweetheart, Olivia, whom he has not seen in almost twenty years.
Joining forces, Dodge and Penny set off on an eventful road trip. Along the way, they have a surreal experience at ‘Friendsys’ (clearly based on TGI Fridays and perhaps punning on the word ‘frenzy’), catch a lift with an amiable guy who has hired a hit man to assist him in his own suicide, and seek out an old flame of Penny’s who has created a security bunker from which he plans to rebuild the human race. However, the journey does not end quite how either of them had anticipated.
The disaster slash apocalypse movie is a popular genre, but Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a unique take on an old idea. Perhaps most strikingly, it is not in the slightest bit predictable. Indeed, despite its morbid theme, there are bits that are extremely funny, such as when Dodge and Penny bury the body of the assassinated driver, only to realise that they have left the car keys in the dead man’s pocket. Calling the canine companion they adopt ‘Sorry’—a reference to the note left by the owner that abandoned him—is also a nice touch.
Another strength of this movie is its soundtrack. Like Penny, I am a vinyl aficionada, and share her love for the musical stylings of The Walker Brothers and Herb Alpert. Without wishing to give too much away, the scene in which The Hollies’ ‘The Air That I Breathe’ is played almost in its entirety made the hairs on my arm stand on end—it was the perfect choice of song for that moment.
Until now, I’m not sure I had ever seen a film that made me laugh and cry, that is so innovative and clever, and that does its best to avoid cliché while remaining powerfully moving. Best of all, it helped me to realise that my life is pretty care-free by comparison. Sure, things may not be perfect, but at least I am (probably) not going to be hit by a meteor in the next three weeks.
By Natalie Orr