Wanted: A Friend For the End of the World
What if you only had three weeks before the world ends? Who would you want to spend it with? Your family, your spouse, your sweetheart, your best friend? What things would you do once you've made your choice?
I have in a short period of time seen three remarkable movies. Some remarkable because of the acting and writing and one--this one, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, because of it's intriguing subject. Let me get this out of the way first. If you are looking for stellar acting and script and the cleverest of dialogues, don't see this one, see Moonrise Kingdom which I reviewed previously. But if you want to see a thoroughly engaging movie about the end of the world and a completely enjoyable love story involving an unlikely, but charming relationship-challenged couple, then by all means, this movie is for you. In the other film I reviewed, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the writer explored the choices you would make if you were in the last years of your life. This one asks the same questions, but shortens the period to just twenty one days.
Of course the title gives away the ending--the shortest "happily ever after" in history. But don't let that stop you. Knowing about the end frees you up to enjoy it and I absolutely did. No one else in the story is ever developed enough for you to get attached to them nor do the wacky approaches to living out your last days ever take center stage so you are completely involved with the two likeable, if clueless, characters.
Dodge and Penny, occupy neighboring apartments, but have never actually gotten to know each other. Demoralized by the rapid exit of his wife, Dodge tries to get penny somehow to her family in Britain. Burdened by the guilt of neglecting to give Dodge a letter from the high school love of his life, Penny is just as determined to help Dodge find her. Together with a cute, abandoned dog, they set off on a journey of discovery that helps them to see who they really want to be with when life as they know it ceases to exist.
Lorene Scafaria (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist) wrote the screenplay and debuts as director. It stars Academy Award nominee Kiera Knightley as Penny and Golden Globe Award winner Steve Carell as Dodge with a cameo appearance by Martin Sheen as Dodge's in absentia dad. The film explores what we would all do if the end of humanity was just around the corner. Scafaria gives lip service to the more extreme ways of acting out in your last days and then spends the rest of the movie in an almost serene study of what is really important to you when the world's demise is imminent. In a comical scene, a small town officer sticks to the letter of the law and hauls Dodge and Penny into jail even though the world is ending in days.
Lorene, the director and screenwriter is an actress and singer/songwriter herself which qualifies her as a candidate I might want to spend quality "last days" time with. You wouldn't want to miss out on some witty and insightful commentary as you watch society unravel. I know everyone who reads this will probably say they would spend it with their family--but for the sake of discussion in this review/article/forum thread--I will concentrate on the idea of a special someone, who because of their unique relationship with you is the one you most want to hang out with. (And I know I ended the last sentence with a preposition and started the next one with a conjunction, but give me a break, we have a 70 mile in diameter meteor hurtling towards the earth.)
Speaking of writing, there are several writers here on HP that I would be privileged to watch the final sunsets with. I would have enjoyed swapping poetic wisdom with Chris A. and looking back over the final days with him it appears I did just that. I would not feel like anything I say or write would be complete without a comment from my long time good friends who loyally show up with their take on my little articles and always leave me with encouraging thoughts. If we aren't together when it comes, know I really appreciate you all and I would not go through an apocalypse without making quality contact with as many of you as I could manage. If doom's day really does come on the scene, you are all warmly invited to an "End of the World Celebration and Winsome Reflection Conference" --I know some of the best coastal or mountain views and we can all hang out there. (Big grin on his face.)
There are those who maintain a relationship just for the sake of appearances and the movie begins with the rapid disintegration of these in favor of ones based on sincere and true affinity for each other. If nothing else, the film causes us to examine our activities and our relationships. Is this really the job I want to be doing with my last days? Are these the friends I want to hang out with when I only have a little bit of time left? Is this the love I want to take with me into eternity?
With these thoughts in mind, I've put together a little checklist for you to put on the wall where you store your rations of bottled water and flashlights.
Ten Things to do at The End of the World
1. Make peace with your Maker--this is one journey you'll be glad you have a reservation on the other end.
2. Who you are is all you can take with you when your time comes--resist maxing out your credit cards, looting or violence--a lot of people think that there is no accountability if everyone and everything will be destroyed, but your character is the most precious treasure you have and the only one that will last.
3. Be generous with the resources and time you have left. Some groups in the movie were survivalists types who guarded and hoarded. If you are with me when the time comes, you are welcome to share my rice, cornbread and pinto beans and anything else in the cupboard or freezer I was clever enough to stockpile. I can tell you that I have the finest Bose speakers and enough quality mp3's to keep us in musical heaven until the real thing comes along. When the power runs out I have about ten acoustic guitars to keep us amused. Come on, join me in a chorus of "Tan me hide when I'm dead Fred, tan me hide when I'm dead..."
4. Do what you've put off. Go ahead and try that extreme sport you've been avoiding as too risky or say what you really feel to someone you've admired from afar.
5. Forgive everyone, forget every wrong, approve of everyone you can and wherever possible, be a beacon of encouragement whenever the opportunity presents itself. Don't bother to tell your boss or nemesis what you really think. You have much more important things to do with your last few hours than to vent on unfortunate people who will be lonely and unhappy going into that dark night.
6. Eat anything you want. I'm not kidding. Pull out the fine china, the real silver, the best linens and enjoy the best meal you can find--and share it with as many of the ones you love that you can. Seriously, what have you been saving it for?
7. Dump politics and demagoguery of every kind. When the end is near who cares if your pet political agenda is met or not. Hug a Democrat if you are a Republican and vice versa--in fact, whether or not you have an affiliation, hug everyone you can--believe me, hugs may be the most valuable commodity when Armageddon approaches.
8. Realize that your family is a lot bigger now. Some people just huddle with their immediate family, but when time is almost up, no man is an island, and we are all part of each other.
9. Find someone whose eyes you want to look into as you count out the last seconds. Even though you are part of everyone else, let's face it. There is one person on this planet that you'd rather be with than anyone else--and that one individual is the friend you are seeking for the end of the world.
10. Become an expert in love. Learn the language, the practice, the self-sacrifice and the joy of love. When the clock is ticking its last, love is the only thing that can slow it down and make your last seconds seem like a lifetime.