How It Ends

**1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

How It Ends
"The end result is sweet but its best ideas are underdeveloped, leaving it with the slightness of something conceived on the hoof." | Photo: Daryl Wein

You can see how this film seemed like a good idea at the time. We all know how weird 2020 was so, as filmmakers, with work stalling left, right and centre and Los Angeles in some sort of lockdown that left the streets emptier than normal, why not make a movie about the last day before the world ends, starring a lot of people who, presumably, married team Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein had in their address books? The end result is sweet but its best ideas are underdeveloped, leaving it with the slightness of something conceived on the hoof.

The film's core concept, and it is a strong one, is that Liza (Lister-Jones) is facing her last day on the planet alone, as a meteor hurtles towards Earth - kept at a distance, for budget reasons, the sight of it cutting across the blue skies of LA is nonetheless effective. The twist is that "alone" in this case, means she is accompanied by her "metaphysical" younger self (Cailee Spaeny, giving her character plenty of zip), who spends most of the day offering her older self a sort of existential pep talk as they wander around the leafier bits of LA encountering random strangers and attempting to get Liza closure with some key people in her life.

The result is an episodic curio, that sometimes finds a solid comic groove - an encounter with an estranged friend (Olivia Wilde) which sees the pair talk over one another while bonding and a confrontation with an ex (Lamorne Morris) are the humour high points. Helen Hunt, who doesn't crop up in film nearly as often as she should these days, also brings emotional weight to her scene as Liza's mother and Sharon Van Etten strums up a bit of poignancy with her guitar. Social-distancing on the set adds to the odd vibe, although it inevitably serves some scenes better than others - after all, if it was the final day on Earth, you would, surely, touch someone at some point.

Some of the nihilistic humour hits the spot - Liza tucking into pancakes while swigging syrup, Wilde troughing an enormous Oreo cake as a bottle of wine sits half-swigged, "I see a lot of dairy... with zero consequences," says Wilde as she considers what might "come after". But too many of these conversations - featuring actors including Colin Hanks, Bobby Lee and Nick Kroll - have the feel of improvisational moments that probably felt much funnier at the time, with the quirky score from Ryan Miller being asked to do too much heavy lifting. The film takes on a drifting quality and while Lister-Jones and Spaeny have a sparky pairing, Wein and Lister-Jones don't develop their core idea enough.

This sort of indie film was born to meander but all too often it feels like a first draft that needed shaping and honing into something sharper. The end of the world should have more bang for its buck.

Reviewed on: 30 Jan 2021
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A woman and the embodiment of her younger self try to find closure on the day before the Apocalypse.


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