out of Five
Running time: 101
Impressively directed and superbly written, this is an enjoyably quirky, frequently funny and ultimately moving comedy-drama with a pair of terrific performances from Steve Carell and Keira Knightley.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World stars Steve Carell as Dodge, a 40-something insurance worker whose wife immediately leaves him when it's announced that a deadly asteroid will destroy the earth in three weeks' time. When Dodge's quirky British neighbour Penny (Keira Knightley) returns all the mail she'd been saving for him, Dodge finds a letter from his childhood sweetheart declaring her love for him, so he decides to take a road trip to visit her before it's too late.
At the same time, Penny breaks up with her useless boyfriend (Adam Brody) and is distraught because she's missed the last commercial flight home to see her family, so Dodge agrees to help her, as he knows someone with access to a plane. Along the way, the pair have a variety of offbeat encounters and gradually start to develop feelings for each other.
Carell is superb as Dodge, reigning in his usual screen persona and under-playing to winning effect; as such he's convincing as a man gradually coming out from under a cloud, even if that cloud, along with the rest of the earth, is about to be blown to smithereens. Similarly, Keira Knightley is terrific as Penny, delivering a quirky, likeable performance that is utterly charming and generating strong, affecting (though admittedly non-sexual) chemistry with Carell.
There's also hilarious support from a reliable comic cast that includes Melanie Lynskey (as a woman Dodge's friends try to set him up with), Patton Oswalt (as a single friend taking advantage of the End of Days hedonism), Rob Corddry (as Dodge's boorish brother-in-law) and William Petersen as a trucker who mistakes Dodge and Penny for his own hired assassins.
Scafaria gets the tone exactly right, striking a tricky balance between absurd, often surreal end-of-days humour (“Hey everyone, Sarah and Dave brought heroin!”) and Dodge's central melancholia, while painting a surprisingly convincing central relationship and delivering some powerfully emotional moments. In addition, the film has a fantastic soundtrack, which perhaps isn't that surprising, coming from the writer of Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a hugely enjoyable, brilliantly acted comedy-drama that's simultaneously thought provoking, laugh-out-loud funny and powerfully moving. Highly recommended.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (15)