Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Seeking a Friend is a charming dramedy in a yin-yang sort of way.

From the early days of cinema to the most recent, the doomsday scenario has been depicted with varying levels of imagination. On one extreme end, director Michael Bay seemed most optimistic in Armageddon. On the other end, Lars Von Trier’s art-house enigma is depressingly pessimistic in Melancholia; and between the two, Roland Emmerich made a farce of it all with 2012. If you are reading this review now, then the Mayan’s were wrong and so was Emmerich. In completely avoiding the trodden path of disaster movies, débutant director Lorene Scafaria gives Seeking a Friend for the End of the World a humane touch by portraying how people react when faced with imminent death.

The setup begins midway through a global crisis when an asteroid seventy miles wide is on a collision course with Earth. After a failed attempt to destroy said asteroid, panic manifests itself in unbelievable ways from suicides and orgies to eleventh hour bucket lists. With less than three weeks to impact, Dodge (Steve Carell) is deserted by his wife but appears to be the only person unaffected by the impending doom. Using the remaining time to find his high school sweetheart, or ‘the one who got away’, Dodge bumps into Penny (Keira Knightly), a British neighbour desperately trying to get home to her family in England. Together, they embark on a road trip, each with different agendas. The unexpected happens and their road trip becomes a journey of self-worth and discovery, redemption and revelation, and the blossoming of a new beginning even when the end is nigh. 

Various theories suggest that we are dying as soon as we are born – some of us faster than others; some see it coming while others don’t; some accept it while others cling to the very fabric of life. Even so, how does one appreciate the essence of existence knowing fully well that life will soon cease to exist? Like planting a sapling in parched earth, Seeking a Friend is filled with such ironies that are both profound and heart-wrenching, but never formulaic. An end-of-days premise is not new, but Scafaria’s screenplay benefits from an original approach by building on an off-timed romantic-comedy rather than a movie about the mother of all disasters. As a comedian, Carell needs no introduction; then again, we have never seen him in a film with a pre-apocalyptic backdrop. His comic skills are put to good use where his effortless monotone relieves the plot’s darker and sometimes unsettling violent moments. Oddly enough, Knightly appears to be miscast, but in character, Penny is just the opposite as a vivacious and free-spirited female who becomes the catalytic spark in drawing Dodge out of his shell. While their friends and the rest of the world spiral out of control, Dodge and Penny’s unlikely bonding becomes the film’s predictable but bitter-sweet moments. 

Although this film is far from perfect, Scafaria’s story has an uncanny yin-yang approach that embeds comedy within tragedy and vice versa. There is also a lot of wit and sarcasm interjected by some unexpected cameos. While some of these characters don’t aid the story, few standout in thought provoking tragic and comic moments. This of course is the pulsating message of the story which goes to say that the unflawed core of the human spirit is destined to prevail through despair and divergence, but most of all – the day of damnation. See you on the other side!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.