Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a 2012 comedy-drama about a man and a women who come together for different reasons as they face the end of humanity.
“So, what are you doing with the rest of your life?” A 70-mile wide asteroid is careening toward Earth, and the final strategy to avert the catastrophe has failed. Immediately after this radio announcement, Dodge’s wife (Nancy Carell) leaves him. As Dodge (Steve Carell) moves through familiar daily routines in his attempts to process not only his wife’s abrupt abandonment, but also the pending doom of life on Earth, he is witness to various means by which people respond to this horrific event. In this process, he meets for the first time Penny (Keira Knightley), a neighbor in his building. Penny gives Dodge some mail, which, over time, the mail carrier has mistakenly placed in her box. One of the items is a letter, written three months earlier by Olivia, Dodge’s high school sweetheart (seen only in pictures and played by the film’s director), whom he had never gotten over. Penny suggests that they go find Dodge’s lost love. As Dodge had seen earlier, along their journey, he and Penny witness and experience various manners in which people are responding to and preparing for the end of the world.
This drama/romance/comedy is written and directed by Lorene Scafaria (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, 2008). Scafaria’s intention is to explore humanity’s reaction to not only the death of self, but also the unavoidable, simultaneous death of everyone else at the same moment as your death. It is a curious, vicarious look into the idea of not only death (for which, even when we KNOW it is going to happen, still leaves us unprepared in its moment of occurrence), but also the movie looks into the idea of the concept of time being stopped. Starring in the movie are the aforementioned comedian Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, both of whom have been nominated for or won various awards throughout their careers.
If your are looking for an exciting, CGI enhanced sci-fi, doomsday story, which takes place in outer space, this movie will be a disappointment. Rather, the movie explores how, right here on Earth, we might manage our behavior as we await a pending armageddon; an armageddon that was caused by no man and one that no man can stop. In becoming aware of the personal armageddons occurring within Dodge’s and Penny’s lives, the viewer may become more involved with their stories, rather than becoming caught-up in the idea of the end of the world. If a viewer has not ever considered this horrific situation – realizing that not only are you alone in the world (which feels armageddon-ish in itself), but you are alone AND the world is going to end AND you will be alone as it ends – this movie will open the viewer’s eyes to this horror and then disallow denial. The viewer will benefit from being able to set aside the fact that, given what little time remains before the end of the world, Dodge and Penny are able to find necessary transportation and travel seemingly long distances being unharmed along the way.
The soundtrack is graced with a variety of both old and newer tunes that fit perfectly (“The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” and “The Air that I Breathe”, which are among universal songs to which we relate in times of lost love or loneliness) if not ironically (“Wouldn’t it Be Nice” played directly after the announcement that there is no avoiding the asteroid’s arrival). The cinematography is intimate and personal. Keira Knightley is superb in her portrayal of Penny. Steve Carell, in a minimalist style is so real. Overall, the cast portray quite believable characters. The viewer sees that the horror is not so much the end of the world, but being alone at the end of the world. Let the world end. Just, please, don’t let me be alone; let it be with someone I love.
“It’s all about who you lay down with when the lights go out.” ~Trucker (William Peterson)
That Moment In: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Scene Setup: Dodge and Penny are spending the night in the house of Olivia’s parents; there is a feeling that the house is simply abandoned. In one of the rooms, Dodge finds a small record player, which for Penny, being a collector, is a true treasure.
The Scene (Timestamp 01:04:06): Penny prepares a delicious dinner, which they enjoy as they sit on the living room floor around the coffee table, the room lit by a warm, crackling fire emanating from the nearby fireplace, a record softly playing “This Guy’s in Love with You” in the background. Penny is describing how much her parents loved each other and explaining that their relationship created a high standard for a relationship for herself. Also, she is describing vinyl, as in records; she loves the song playing, and she loves records. She describes how vinyl has to really be taken care of, because it can be wrecked so easily; you really have to love it. She asks him if he hears how full it sounds. His expression at that moment is simply, deeply, powerful and believable. It is the moment he realizes that he loves her. He is a good and sincere person, as also is she. They are vinyl and deserve to be really taken care of and loved. It is one of many moments in the movie during which we recognize ourselves. Any of us who is vinyl recognizes this moment, and we know that our lives could be so full.