As beginnings go, hearing that the end of the world is nigh and seeing your wife flee of into darkness without a single word, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is positively brimming with negativity. Quite surprisingly though, it turns out to be one of the more positive films you’ll see about the Earth’s destruction, mixing some observant drama with comedy for a genuinely enjoyable ride into the afterlife.
Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist), featuring Steve Carell as Dodge (joining the pantheon of Carell’s glum characters) and Keira Knightley as Penny: a neighbour who inadvertently causes a problem for Dodge by withholding a letter that sparks them (and a dog called Sorry) to go on a road trip to find Dodge’s true love and Penny’s family before the world ends.
…the ending is probably too saccharine…
The movie plays out like a series of vignettes and mishaps as they try to find some closure. The idea of setting comedy/drama/romance (it would be a bit harsh to call it a rom-com) creates a few problems in terms of tonal shifts where one moment will be depicting something awful which is then forgotten with the next gentle joke that the script fires at you to leaden the gloominess.
Scafaria navigates those problems with a sure hand with Carell and Knightley shining through the gloom as they strike up a rapport that seems unlikely at the beginning. Through that unlikely relationship the film becomes something of a pleasant ride, alternating between some doom and gloom and some quite funny moments.
It’s perhaps not as hilarious as some of the more bawdy comedies of the last few years and the ending is probably too saccharine, but in Scafaria’s hands the end of the world doesn’t feel like such a bummer.