Tuesday, June 6, 2023
HomeEntertainmentNews24.com | REVIEW | Laid-back apocalyptic comedy How It Ends is perfect...

News24.com | REVIEW | Laid-back apocalyptic comedy How It Ends is perfect viewing between load shedding sessions




Cailee Spaeny and Zoe Lister-Jones in How It Ends.

Cailee Spaeny and Zoe Lister-Jones in How It Ends.

With an asteroid about to end all life on Earth at roughly 2 o’clock the next morning, Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones) spends her last day on Earth in the company of her “metaphysical” younger self (Cailee Spaeny), wondering around town, connecting with people both strange and familiar, before seeing off humanity with a house-full of other people at an “Apocalypse party”.

Made during the peak of the Covid pandemic in 2020 by the husband-and-wife, writer-director team of Zoe Lister-Jones (who also stars as our intrepid, yet listless, heroine, Liza) and Daryl Wein, How It Ends is a quirky little Sundance film of the sort that had a very strong chance of never seeing the light of day in this country – at least legally or without a VPN. It’s certainly not helped by having received a fairly lukewarm response from both critics (a 57 Metascore) and audiences (5.2 on the IMDB).

And yet, the film actually did arrive, albeit unceremoniously, on Showmax at some point in the past month or so. It shows somehow that for all of my issues with streaming taking away from cinemas, they are uniquely positioned to nab small-budgeted indies. Films like How It Ends may not even have hit Cinema Nouveau back when it was a proper “arthouse cinema” – even if they are often buried at the bottom of the queue by the all-powerful Algorithm.

And you know what, I’m super glad that it did because How It Ends is oh so much better than those ratings aggregators would have you believe.

How It Ends is not a total, must-see masterpiece – it’s much too slight and charmingly off-handed to even aim at such heights, let alone reach them – but it is an incredibly charming, weird, and funny little gem of a movie that’s very much well worth your time. Especially when that amount of time is a whopping 82 minutes, including credits, which doesn’t only ensure that it never wears out its welcome or that it’s a welcome relief after so many of the movies on release right now seem intent on testing the patience and back muscles of audiences everywhere with ludicrously long run times, but that you can actually fit the whole thing in between load shedding sessions!

You do, however, kind of have to be in the bag for this sort of thing for it to work its charms on you at all. It is charmingly quirky and weird rather than obnoxiously quirky and weird (exhibit A: White Noise), but if you like your films with tons of action, plot or realism, then you might want to check out something else. A lot of the more negative reviews should probably have done exactly that, too, judging it, as they did, by what it’s not rather than what it was clearly trying to be.

How it Ends may fit loosely into the apocalyptic-comedy sub-genre that has been unsurprisingly popular for the past couple of decades (along, of course, with the even more prevalent apocalyptic dramas and action movies), but it’s not really about the end of the world. Certainly, it has less than nothing to do with how people would actually react to the end of days – and unlike its contemporary, Don’t Look Up, it has even less interest in using its premise as a metaphor for climate change or as a way of satirizing human stupidity.

In fact, it’s hard to think of a film from the past few years that is anywhere near this laid back – which is definitely not something you can say about a great many apocalyptic stories. The world may be about to end, but everyone seems to feel, well, fine. Just like R.E.M. Unrealistic? Well, yes, of course, but this is also a film where someone’s “metaphysical” younger self doesn’t just keep them company in their own mind but is entirely visible to other people, who view such occurrences as the most natural thing in the world. And that’s before getting into the no less surrealist comedic (and I mean genuinely comedic – I laughed frequently throughout the film) interactions that Liza has with a succession of increasingly colourful characters played by a who’s who of top-drawer comic actors. No spoilers here on who they are, though, as a large part of the fun of the film is stumbling upon them right alongside our protagonist (protagonists?). I will just say, though, that one of Lister-Jones’ New Girl co-stars just about steals the whole damn film.

This isn’t to say that the film is just a goofy hangout comedy. It has at its centre a very strong psychological – even, dare I say it, spiritual – core to it. As the film’s very premise so obviously suggests, the whole thing is basically an illustration of that old psychological chestnut: trying to heal the wounded inner child. Trite? Obvious? Perhaps. But roll your eyes all you want, there’s no getting past just how much of mental health, or the lack thereof, revolves around our ability to reconcile with what is, in many ways, our most essential selves – and the film deals with it beautifully by mixing in just the right amount of earnestness with its laid-back surrealism and sharp comedy.    

This is not a story about the end of the world but about personal – though not solipsistic – enlightenment. And while it certainly doesn’t push any sort of religion (though it is clearly informed by the ever-popular philosophy of stoicism), there is an undeniably spiritual undercurrent running throughout. It reaches its crescendo in the film’s final moments as Liza is engulfed with the pure, unfiltered light of the comet colliding with Earth.  But, again, it’s all so charmingly underplayed that it never feels pretentious or heavy-handed. It just feels… human.   

Worth noting, though, is that the whole vibe of the film is borne out of necessity as much as a purely artistic decision. It being written, produced, and directed in the middle of 2020 means that it could never have shown large crowds of humanity going bananas in the face of their impending doom, and, indeed, the whole thing was shot outside with strict social distancing restrictions in place. But necessity is undoubtedly the mother of invention, and Lister-Jones (who is, incidentally, wonderful in the lead role – as is Cailee Spaeny as her younger self) and Wein have made brilliant use of those very restrictions to create something that feels genuinely quite unique.

It’s not for everybody, clearly, but it may well win you over just as easily as it did me. In which case, be sure not to let the Algorithm have it pass you by.

Where to watch: Showmax

Cast: Zoe Lister-Jones, Cailee Spaeny, Finn Wolfhard, Helen Hunt, Sharon Van Etten, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Day

Our rating: 4/5 Stars


Source link

Must Read



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here