Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
dir-scr Lorene Scafaria
prd Steve Golin, Joy Gorman, Steven M Rales, Mark Roybal
with Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Adam Brody, Derek Luke, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry, Martin Sheen, Mark Moses, Melanie Lynskey, William Petersen, Patton Oswalt, TJ Miller
release US 22.Jun.12, UK 13.Jul.12
12/US Focus 1h41
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
The end of the world is nigh: Carell and Knightley

brody luke lynskey
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World There's a whiff of wilful quirkiness about this apocalyptic comedy-drama, but as the brittle humour quietly transforms into something remarkably emotional, the film gets under our skin in ways we never expect.

With an apocalyptic asteroid strike due in three weeks, Dodge (Carell) wonders why he's still going to work at his dull insurance firm. Then he runs into Penny (Knightley), distraught because she's broken up with her boyfriend (Brody). Dodge wants to revisit his childhood sweetheart, while Penny wants to see her parents in Britain. And Dodge knows someone with a plane, so they team up. Along the road, they get help from a trucker (Peterson) and Penny's survivalist ex (Luke). But with the world ending, their priorities begin to shift.

The film's deadpan style suits Carell perfectly, drawing a laugh with a delayed eyebrow arch or a refusal to answer an obvious question. The first half is consistently hilarious because it so sharply skewers human nature, playing on people's people awkward reactions to impending doom. Dodge's best friends (Britton and Corddry) try to set him up with someone (a ridiculous Lynskey) so he's not alone, while another friend (Oswalt) disappears into anonymous sex. Throughout, a newscaster (Moses) covers the last days in sensationalistic style until he's finally had enough.

As the fabric of society starts to crumble, the film centres on Dodge's and Penny's journeys. While we never believe that they're falling in love, their connection is touching. Carell beautifully underplays every scene, evoking Dodge's confusion as he finally works through long-held feelings. Knightley, meanwhile, gives a slightly too-big performance that distracts us with over-expressive physicality, never letting us see into Penny's soul.

Intriguingly, this only intensifies Carell's perspective while giving strong context to the many one-scene performances. And as the humorous tone gives way to a strong vein of plaintive sentiment, the film develops a warm, sweet tone that's thoroughly engaging. The climactic events take several surprising turns, as Carell and Knightley turn their performances inwards, catching the emotional resonance of the story's key themes. It's not just about making peace with past regrets; more importantly it's about being open to whatever life has in store.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 14.Jun.12

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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall