Steve Carell and Keira Knightley may seem like an odd romantic pairing, but Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is far from the most normal of romances. The world is ending in three weeks. Period. There's no avoiding that in the film's opening moments. What sets the tone for the entire film is how that catastrophic factoid is delivered to the audience in the story's opening moments.
Carell’s Dodge and his wife are in their car on the side of the road as the radio announces the news. She suddenly opens her door and runs… to beyond what is seen. Dodge turns his head from his wife’s running trajectory and drives away.
It is fascinating to see how filmmaker Lorene Scafaria handles the landscape she has established in terms of story. Would people still show up for work? Will there be riots? Exactly how reflective would you get? Or, would it be possible to let days upon days go by knowing you still had weeks to live without doing anything important at all?
The script by Scafaria is so smart and possesses a sentiment of optimism that is surprisingly sensational given the parameters of the story. Knightley’s Penny is fed up with her significant other, gets up and leaves him. She then meets her neighbor (Carell) for the first time, encouraging and joining Dodge as they head out on the road in the days that are left to find his "girl that got away."
What they discover may be the secret to love, tragically unearthed as the planet is set to be extinct. In the hands of Carell and Knightley, this odd couple seems quite perfectly matched. Perhaps it’s the pending doom approaching, but there is something more. Both actors offer layered performances that take them away from what could be one-note turns and give each character a depth that not only allows us to pull for them romantically, but also to survive the un-survivable.
Stellar supporting players abound in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Gillian Jacobs and TJ Miller work in a Fridays-type restaurant in the middle of nowhere that has a celebratory view of the apocalypse that is downright hilarious. Dodge’s good friends are played with panache by Connie Britton and Rob Corddry, who throw a party that is the definition of responsibility-free living unleashed!
The answers to all of the above mentioned questions find compelling resolutions in Scafaria’s film. It is a piece of work that simultaneously makes you think, humbles and allows us all to give thanks for the fragile world we inhabit.