Seeking a Friend For the End of the World is one of those movies that sticks with you. This indie movie by Lorene Scafaria defies categorization as it blends romantic comedy with apocalypse. The lead character is Dodge, played with surprising tenderness by Steve Carell, a quiet insurance salesman whose wife just left him, and the time is one month before an asteroid is expected to make impact.
I’ve watched a fair number of apocalyptic movies, most often where the disaster is averted by the heroic actions of a few VIPs. This is not one of them. Seeking tries to answer the question, what if humanity couldn’t stop the big one? What if the heroic actions failed and doom was coming anyway.
The takeaway seems to be that humans would respond variously. Riots and looting, infidelity and a loss of social mores, and increased casual drug use are shown, but also some who doggedly live as if it’s any other day – a cop still writing tickets, an elderly couple hosting a yard sale. Survivalists stockpiling arms and food are introduced. Everyone scrambles for someone to hold onto.
Dodge’s flighty neighbor Penny, played by indie goddess Keira Knightly, gives him a letter from his high school sweetheart that was misdelivered to her, months ago. Fleeing the violence of the city, the two head out on a road trip to find Dodge’s first love, and to find Penny some way back home to England to be with her family when the time comes.
I watched this weeks ago and can’t get it out of my head. It’s not an easy or light hearted movie, although there are genuine laughs on the way. Suicide is explored twice in the movie, with mixed results. There is also love and beauty, and a scene where dozens of people wed on a beach. It shows humanity in crisis, which is when we are our worst and our best.
This movie is probably not appropriate for children or younger teens, with strong language, gun violence, sexual situations and drug use, plus the nightmare fuel of a concept: unavoidable meteor. For adults I’d caution against watching it while depressed. But for adults not going through a depressive episode, it’s a pretty amazing picture. It’s been a month and I can’t stop recalling lines, scenes, and moments. It’s exceptional writing and Carell and Knightly are absolutely up to the task.