Seeking a Friend for the End of the World review

If you’ve seen the trailer for this film, are a huge Steve Carell fan and enjoyed the quirky nature of Lorene Scafaria’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, you might be looking forward to Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. But you may be disappointed when Scafaria’s latest film and directorial debut fails to deliver the type of film you wanted to see.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World opens with middle-aged Dodge (Carell) and his wife Linda listening to the news on their car radio that an asteroid is headed for Earth in exactly 21 days. This is, in fact, the end of the world and each individual wants to spend their last three weeks differently. Dodge’s wife Linda immediately runs out of the car upon hearing the news and is not to be seen again. Dodge’s friends want to enjoy themselves and party like there’s no tomorrow (which, in three weeks, there won’t be). All Dodge wants is to spend his remaining time on Earth with someone he loves.

After a chance encounter with Penny (Knightley), his quirky and much younger neighbour, the two escape the ongoing riots in their city and leave to find Dodge’s high school sweetheart and a flight home to England for Penny. In their quest to find love, they end up falling for each other and spending their last days together.

To think that Steve Carell and Keira Knightley is an odd pairing would be correct. There is really something not quite right about this coupling. Perhaps it is the age difference – which is not helped by Knightley’s performance. While attempting to pull off the quirky happy-go-lucky Zooey Deschanel-type character, Knightley appears to be nothing but an overgrown child. Her performance felt forced and unreal and confirms what we already knew – Knightley is not a comedic actress.

There are some great laughs to be had while the end of the world comes closer – but they’re all in the first 15 minutes. There are some hilarious characters, like Dodge’s friends Warren and Diane (Corddry and Britton) who could have had more involvement, but they didn’t. If the rest of the film was anything like the first 15 minutes, it would have been excellent. But unfortunately, it wasn’t.

With the supposed end of the world nearing, perhaps we can expect to see more screenplays written about the ways in which people spend their last days. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World definitely had the right idea – it just failed to accomplish it.
★★★ Seeking a Friend... is an absolutely delicious black comedy with pitch-perfect performances from both Carrell and Knightley. The first 20 minutes or so are absurdly funny as people react to the news of the Earth's impending doom, then things settle down a bit before it segues (a little clunkily, it must be said) into a road movie cum gentle romantic drama. It doesn't all work, but the faults are few and the film's many charms overcome them easily. And any film is improved tenfold by the inclusion of Martin Sheen (we don't see enough of this wonderful man on screen these days). The Beatles got it right – all you need is love.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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