Film Review - Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
By Rob Horsley | Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Photo by Film_Poster via Flickr.
Remember when that one guy said that the world was going to end last year? Not a lot of people believed him, and sure enough, nothing happened? Remember? Yeah, we all had a good laugh about that one.
What if someone actually knew when the world was going to end? What if not just someone, but everyone knew that we only had a few weeks before life as we know it went belly-up for good?
That's the premise of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, starring Steve Carell and Kiera Knightley. Humanity has but three weeks until total annihilation, and society has gone all topsy-turvy. Some people quit their jobs. Others embrace a lifestyle of "last-kicks," having been set free of the worries of addiction or sexual misadventures. Some give up and check out early, committing suicide or placing professional hits on themselves.
But Dodge Peterson (Carell) seeks something more meaningful with his few weeks on earth, namely reconnecting with a lost love. Along to share the journey with him is Penny (Knightley), his downstairs neighbour who he'd previously never met. Antics ensue, and the questions of what really matters in life are addressed and offered answers, though perhaps not totally satisfying ones.
As movies go, there are hits and misses aplenty in Seeking a Friend. There seems to be somewhat of a struggle for a clear genre, as you never quite realize whether it's a mainstream raunchy comedy, or a more witty indie-type of film. It's not unfunny, just inconsistent, which some may find annoying.
There are the obvious issues with language, drug use and sexual themes. But they do have film ratings for a reason, so if you're uncomfortable with those, might be best to steer clear. It's definitely not one for the whole family.
Without going into too much detail, Seeking a Friend also lacks that satisfying resolve that we as Christians seem to ache for so desperately at times. It might not be in the way that you would guess, but there is a sense of dissatisfaction or pained reflection that comes at the end of the movie.
Lastly, there's the issue of the attraction between Dodge and Penny. I couldn't help but think to myself that if I was by myself, faced with the inevitable, impending destruction of the entire planet, I'd probably also find myself falling for my attractive neighbour with whom I'd never shared a previous conversation. Kind of reminiscent of a "last day of camp," scenario. The movie never really asks whether this might be the case, even though you'd think it would be pretty obvious.
As a Christian observer, it's interesting to reflect on the idea of knowing the hour in which the end will come, especially considering that Scripture tells us the exact opposite. Images of Jesus' parable of the ten virgins, five of which were unprepared for the return of the bridegroom (Matt. 25), come to mind, as well as the explicit warning of "you do not know on what day your Lord will come." (Matt. 24)
When I consider this, it becomes clear to me that it's probably better that none of us knows exactly when the end will come, as Seeking a Friend points out through its depiction of society faced with its oncoming doom.
The film highlights what it might look like to see what society would be like if everyone knew they only had a few weeks left. It speaks to the flawed nature of humanity and offers a glimpse of the world unchained, removed from the structure of long-term repercussions.
There are the looters and rioters, those who choose to void their humanity and become animals, reveling in the anarchy of the Endtimes.
There's the happily misguided staff at a roadside restaurant, all of which apparently consider their co-workers to be their only remaining slice of joy left in the world.
There's the policeman, still devoted to his mission as an officer, apparently unaware of his own insignificance in the face of the ultimate end.
There's Penny's bomb-shelter occupying ex-boyfriend, convinced that he's bigger than the oncoming catastrophe and resolved to survive the destruction.
And then there's Dodge and Penny themselves. Apparently two of the only people in the movie who hang onto their societal sensibilities, they both seek to reconnect with the things that really matter to them. In this case, it's lost love for Dodge, and a loving family for Penny, though along the way they begin to see each other as the thing they've really been looking for.
Though it never really touches on religion explicitly as the source of ultimate fulfillment, or the thing that really matters, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World really does call into question what it is we cling to at our core level. Maybe the dissatisfaction that may come at the end of the film is ultimately reflective of how we find ourselves dissatisfied with how things end up for us, how we always yearn for something more. Maybe we're not supposed to be satisfied by the things of this world. Maybe it really is about how we love and relate to God, as well as those around us.