Film review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the WorldBy Kim Francis
July 11, 2012
So it’s announced that the end of the world is nigh. In a matter of weeks an asteroid will collide with the planet and obliterate everything.
What do you do with the time you’ve got left?
In Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, one woman ups and leaves her husband to run off with her lover, leaving the man she’s spent her life with up to now behind, to question his (curtailed) future and also his past.
When a neighbour (Keira Knightley) hands over a pile of mis-delivered mail to the deserted husband in question (Steve Carell), he discovers a three-month-old letter from an old flame – the love of his life – and decides to head off in search of her and a last-ditch attempt at happiness.
While it might sound like a really interesting science fiction follow-up to Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist from director Lorene Scafaria, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is actually a romantic comedy drama that starts out pretty funny and pleasingly fresh, and gets progressively serious (not to mention increasingly formulaic, despite its indie pretensions).
Using a sci-fi premise as a backdrop to romance doesn’t necessarily spell cinematic suicide – look at last year’s compelling indie drama Another Earth – but the disappointingly blended mix of typical Carell-style humour and serious and sappy romantic elements means that this film doesn’t work as well as it could.
Had it remained true to the tone it sets at the start, or the humour been darker and more offbeat from the outset instead of delivering slapstick skits and frat-style funnies, the film would have segued more effortlessly into a quirky love story, aided by a less predictable script and more distinctive dialogue.
The film’s central relationship also causes problems. While moments between Carell and Knightley are touching at times and their chemistry is relatively sparky, it’s difficult to buy the idea that this 28-year-old bohemian beauty would fall for a fifty-something accountant, whether they’re thrown together as Armageddon approaches or not.
Some great cameos provide the bulk of the early laughs. Dependable comic talent such as Rob Corddry, Patton Oswalt and even Adam Brody bring the film to life at the beginning before it gets bogged down with dreariness, and you find yourself disappointed that the film leaves them behind.
As the film approaches the end of days, you’ll end up wondering whatever happened to the characters who actually made an impact.