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Apocalypse Now

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TIFF

MOVIE REVIEW
The End We Start From (2023)

“The End We Start From,” which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, is a postapocalyptic thriller that begins as catastrophic weather and flooding ravage London and force people to evacuate. Although nature has emerged as a credible villain these days amid growing concerns of global warming, what the story, adapted from Megan Hunter’s novel, does with the premise isn’t exactly unique. In more ways than one, the film comes off like “A Quiet Place Part II” without the scary creatures.

When the storm first hits, a very pregnant mother played by Jodie Comer is alone at home in London. As water seeps into her home, she overexerts herself while wiping the floor and struggles to call an ambulance. The deluge soon breaks through the window. Fortunately, she does make it to the hospital where she gives birth. She, the baby and her husband, played by Joel Fry, are rushed from the hospital, so they set out for his parents’ place in the country.

Thanks to the new baby, they are able to get around a roadblock and reach their destination next day. The days of bliss and refuge are short, however. Like clockwork, they eventually run out of food. The new dad and new granddad (Mark Strong) head out in hope of obtaining aid, but return completely shaken and changed. Granddad eventually shoots himself. Nan apparently dies at some point, but it’s not clear what exactly happens to her.

The couple and their newborn hit the road again toward a shelter. Because dad can no longer protect mother and child, he drops them off and vanishes. Soon armed robbers pillage the shelter and abscond with all the food. Mom and infant are forced to move again. Teaming up with another mother (Katherine Waterston) with a baby in tow, they run into a kind stranger (Benedict Cumberbatch, who also executive produces). He tells them about a commune with the caveat that it isn’t for him because of its rule that members must be mentally present and completely forget the outside world. As said, it’s basically “A Quiet Place Part II” without monsters.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the film is less spectacular. The effects impressively transform London to appear as flooded as Venice. Of course, you won’t experience any jump scares here. Some humans turn into savages, but they aren’t nearly as nasty as the people you’ll find in “Time of the Wolf” or “The Walking Dead.” Ms. Comer’s character does something terrible in due time. Moviegoers may expect far worse things to happen based on other films, and fortunately they don’t. It’s really just mostly women (and children) vs. nature. A lot of the tension can be credited to the score by Anna Meredith, which adds a sense of urgency to the film’s existential dread.

Ms. Comer’s character couldn’t be further from Villanelle in “Killing Eve,” and the actress makes her just as great. The vulnerability she exhibits is tremendous, especially for fans of that BBC America series. Fry, on the other hand, seems more typecast since he memorably endured another apocalypse in the recent “In the Earth.”

Director Mahalia Belo makes an assured debut feature. The film is polished and well paced. In her introduction, she sells the movie as if it carries the same message about global warming as does “An Inconvenient Truth,” but the actual product feels a bit more like a genre exercise, albeit an accomplished one. It will be interesting to see what Paramount’s relaunched Republic Pictures does with this pickup, which has the potential of a sleeper hit with the right marketing.

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