Who would have thought that the end of the world could be told in a film that’s honest and dramatic, yet still slightly funny? Lorene Scafaria’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is the apocalyptic film we’ve all been waiting for, because it depicts the end realistically, with a lot of heart and love thanks to its two leads Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. It’s bleak and cold one minute and then so incredibly direct and sincere the next. I think I’m in love!
Dodge (Steve Carell) sells insurance and doesn’t care very much for it. He thinks he’s living the life that was meant for him, but then the end of the world is confirmed and his wife gets out of the car and runs away. She never returns and as that slowly sinks in Dodge realizes just how much of his life he wasted on trying to establish a marriage without a spark and trying to live a secure and safe life. None of that matters now, because the end of the world is just a few weeks away and nothing he’s done in his life could ever prepare him for his inevitable doom.
His life gets slightly brighter when he runs into his neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley). The two spark almost instantly, with Dodge’s calm and carefulness counteracting Penny’s off-beat sporadic-ness. The unlikely duo team up for a last-minute adventure to bring some closure to both of their lives before the clock strikes. Dodge wants to visit a long-lost love and Penny wants to reunite with family that she hasn’t seen in years. The rest is your usual end-of-the-world speed bumps that undoubtedly come up along the way.
Lorene Scafaria directs Seeking a Friend for the End of the World with an incredible amount of honesty and realism. This is probably exactly how it would go down if the end of the world was announced to be a couple of weeks away. Her detail to the little things is charming and funny and helps provide a fresh experience that has never unfolded on film quite like this before. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a clever blend of multiple genres that excels specifically in the drama department.
Steve Carell and Keira Knightley anchor down the film’s dramatic elements with a pair of performances that are so completely opposite, yet perfect for each other. Carell adds in his usual brand of quick comedy, but mostly refrains from being his usual silly self and instead focuses on a given-up hopeless man that just doesn’t want to be alone, but can’t think of anyone he’d rather be with than himself. Carell’s character is mostly depressed and sad to be around, but he always manages to get a smile out of anyone he comes into contact with.
Keira Knightley’s Penny is much more over-dramatic and unsure about everything happening around her, but she’s still a lovable and sweet character that bounces off of Dodge perfectly. The whole opposites attract thing is clearly present in this film and Lorene Scafaria makes great use of that with her two leads. Penny and Dodge are both given their own proper back stories and dilemmas that feel fully-formed by the time the two characters interact.
Scafaria’s knack for jumping from comedy to drama is alarmingly good. Not once does the tone of the film feel too silly or out of place during any of the several comedic highlights, with cameo appearances by guys like T.J. Miller, Patton Oswalt and Rob Corddry.
On the same hand the drama always remains at the film’s center, flowing under the comedy and continuing to move the film forward. Scafaria sticks to her guns and never shies away from some of the more depressing themes the film tackles and that’s great, because sometimes a cold hard dose of reality is all a film like this needs to exceed. There’s never an artificial moment or cop out that would usually plague a more mainstream version of this story and for that Scafaria deserves major respect. She sticks with the plot of the film the entire way through.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World might be too bleak for some and that’s okay, because the film isn’t for everyone. Those looking for a sincere drama that also has a subtle amount of comedy will like the film, because of Scafaria’s acute direction and Carell and Knightley’s open performances.
Universal’s 1080p video transfer is layered with lots of light and bright scenery that might squeeze detail in some areas more than most, but the overall presentation is still a glowing experience. A few moments here and there might refrain the transfer from being a perfect score, but it’s still a shining feat.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is plagued with the same amount of subtle traits that most dialogue-heavy films have. The track makes the best of the multiple channels, but most of the focus is on the front channels, where the characters interact with each other and where most of the general effects takeover. There’s activity on the back channels, but it comes and goes.
Here’s a list of bonus material found on the disc:
- Feature Commentary with Writer/Director Lorene Scafaria, Director’s Mother Gail Scafaria, Producer Joy Gorman and Actors Patton Oswalt and Adam Brody.
- A Look Inside Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (HD)
- Music for the End of the World: What’s On Your Playlist? (HD)
- Outtakes (HD)
- DVD Copy
- Digital Copy
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
Lorene Scafaria has more than proved her ability to direct great drama with grade “A” performances. Steve Carell and Keira Knightley channel two characters that they haven’t worked with in a while and it’s great seeing them both deliver. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is unlike most end-of-the-world films, because it chooses to focus on the most human of elements, like loneliness, regret and the uncertainty of death. Scafaria approaches such inner thoughts with an incredible amount of honesty and the result is a film that’s both dramatic and funny. It’s heavy when it needs to be, but it also has its light moments that help even up the mood.
The film is a definite watch for fans of anyone involved and a rewarding rental for those that know little about the film, but are intrigued by the title or premise. You’d really have to have no heart to not enjoy at least one thing about the entire film.
Lorene Scafaria's Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a bleak, honest and slightly humorous look at the end of the world that works tremendously thanks to its sincere direction and chemistry between its two leads Steve Carell and Keira Knightley.