What would happen if the world was going to end? That is the basis for “Seeking A Friend at the End of the World.” The film is based around main character, Dodge Peterson (Steve Carell) who, along with everyone else – discovers the world will end in three weeks time due to impending asteroid. All scientific theories and space travel missions to deter this outcome have failed. There is no solution except to accept this particularly grim fate.
Dodge and his wife, Linda hear the news in their car radio and she promptly exits, leaving him for good. Others react with angry mob scenes complete with death and destruction, while some continue their daily routines like going to work or mowing their lawns. This seemed a very real and arguably accurate depiction of what life would turn into if we all found out today the world was going to (legitimately) end in a few weeks time. It also brought about the issue of a person’s level of happiness in life – what they are willing to settle for and why they do so. Why some people stay in unhappy marriages, why they cheat, why they marry (i.e. people who don’t want to die alone versus waiting for the right person).
After realizing his regular day-to-day routine is no longer necessary, Dodge stops going to work and has a chance encounter with a distraught woman from his building named Penny (Kiera Knightley). They become somewhat friends while Penny explains she is enduring a recent break up with an unemployed guitar player named Owen (spoiler alert, it’s loveable Adam Brody under that beard!)
The next day, when an angry mob starts to riot outside their building, Penny and Dodge take off together determined to make their destinations by world’s end. Hers: to London to be with her family. His: to track down his high school love aka the one that got away. As is the case of most journey stories, the film is more about the journey and the people (a lot of great cameos) they encounter than the destination.
Together Dodge, Penny and little adopted dog Sorry, drive in search of their perspective destinies and find what they are looking for changes on the way. Performances by Carell and Knightly are both equally and exceedingly strong. I’ve always been a fan of Steve Carell, whether the role is hilarious (Anchorman) or more serious and heartfelt (Crazy, Stupid Love) so I maybe biased but he is just a guy I can’t help but warm up to.
Dodge and Penny are a charismatic albeit odd pairing, defying many onscreen duo/couples clichés and drawn out scenarios – there was literally no time for that. Knightley as evokes such instant, significant emotion that as a viewer I felt what she felt and teared up when she did.
I particularly loved both actors’ scenes with Martin Sheen, I won’t give away the context for sake of not spoiling for those who haven’t seen it – but he is another actor I love, I mean West Wing? Come on! And although his role is small, the relationship between him and Dodge is as rich in its complexity as it is in its emotion.
I wondered how this storyline would play out until the very end and I was not disappointed. I felt the ending was a satisfying one, true to the story and not the cop out I was almost certainly expecting. This film doesn’t try to be something more than it is. It underlines the key themes of love, fate and the unexpected, although the subject matter is particularly emotional and heavy – I really loved this film.