Imagine an asteroid were headed straight for Earth. The folks at NASA say there’s nothing to be done, no defense to mount, no alternate path to take. It will take roughly three weeks to get here but do not doubt: it will hit the earth and not one single organism will survive. What images come to your mind? What does your life and the lives of everyone around you look like then?
Being the cynic that I am, I don’t believe that the general public would be informed if an asteroid were aimed at the earth. The powers that be would do everything to keep this knowledge from us in order to prevent mass chaos and anarchy. Because if they did share such news, of course everyone would stop going to work and within weeks or maybe even days the well-oiled machine that keeps electricity burning, gas pumping and grocery stores stocked with unspoiled food would come to a screeching halt. The police force and fire department would sit empty and crime of every sort would spike. At least, that’s the hideous image that forms in my head. Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World paints a different picture, a much less horrifying (though still grim) but also somehow believable picture. With only three weeks left of life on earth, some people turn to violence and crime, rioting and looting, but mostly, people just want to spend their remaining time with those they love, whomever that may be. Some seek out old flames, others fight to get home to their families, some just want to get laid or have a good time, which sounds more optimistic than the movie feels. It’s sweet and often charming but not so much that it feels like a fairy tale. It never loses the ring of doomed truth that keeps it believable.
The movie’s pace is quite slow, at times too slow, but lead actors Keira Knightley and Steve Carell give performances so sincere, so artfully authentic, you find yourself sticking through the slow times just to find out what happens to these people. These two are the reason this flick works. Less talented actors easily could have kept the audience from connecting with and investing in the characters, thereby ruining the whole thing. Because if you don’t care what happens to Dodge (Carell) and Penny (Knightley), you won’t watch it through to the end. These two characters are it – there are no subplots circling them, no cool CGI to dazzle you, no plot interesting or developed enough that you’ll stick around regardless of two crappy main characters. Nope, if you begin Seeking A Friend… and feel at all compelled to see it through, it’s because Steve Carell and Keira Knightley are two damned fine actors. Which isn’t to say that the plot is no good or that the dialogue is terrible (it isn’t), it’s just that the premise goes nowhere without the characters of Dodge and Penny. They are the glue. And without a couple of actors skilled enough to really sell it, the whole thing would fall apart.
Fortunately, it doesn’t fall apart. It creeps along, brings together these two neighbors who’d never before paid each other any mind (Dodge and Penny) and very slowly, organically, dreamily, a relationship blossoms and blooms, all within the last couple of weeks on Earth. There isn’t much else to say because that literally is the entire plot. It sounds simple and bleak but, while there are heavy themes and some dark moments, it’s actually a surprisingly darling little film, one that leaves you pleasantly sad. A slightly bitter, mostly sweet end to a story about finding love at the end of the world.