How It Ends is directed by Zoe Lister-Jones, and Daryl Wein shared their movie with SXSW Film Festival. It was a pleasantly hilarious take on the last-day-on-earth microgenre, and what a perfect time to make a last-day-on-earth movie than during the Los Angeles lockdown? The empty streets look like a post-apocalyptic world when something like filming in LA’s streets would be nearly impossible to do. It is probably the most fun COVID-19 response since the pandemic happened and by far better than those suspense thrillers.
The story follows Liza (Lister-Jones) and her metaphysical younger self (Cailee Spaeny) with an ambitious list of regrets that she needs to get sorted out before the world ends. Her car stolen, she must huff it on foot through barren streets of LA, encountering awkward and hilarious moments with strangers and reunions with old friends. On this journey to forgiveness, Liza must confront the father (Bradley Whitford), that was lousy at being a parent and possibly gathering some courage to face the mother (Helen Hunt) that abandoned her. She must also make amends with an old friend (Olivia Wilde) that ended because of a horrible ex-boyfriend (Lamorne Morris) that didn’t deserve her love and finger-cross that she and the hottie that got away (Logan Marshall-Green) will (as Liza’s younger self eloquently put it) to fuck. Yeah, that definitely felt weird to hear, but I thought it was funny. Packed with cameos from practically every celebrity that Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein have ever got to work with and have befriended throughout their careers in the entertainment industry. It tinged with existentialism and its hilariousness with the poetic energy of a story that you can tell friends at a party or you know the end of the world. What a fun and wild ride that must have been like the film How It Ends.
However, the film’s most vital point is not its compelling cast. The scenes between Lister-Jones and Spaeny as opposite ends of the same person’s life give How It Ends powerful resonance. Liza as a teenager, encourages her adult self to get out there, meet people, and face her feelings. Liza, on the other hand, refuses to enjoy the comfort of her own company. Both actresses gave it their all. It was like Lister-Jones and Spaeny could have been actual sisters. They worked in harmony together; there could not have been a better pairing than those two. The film works best when the focus is centered on Liza and her younger self as they negotiate the tension of trying to be alone with yourself. The moments of them walking through the empty streets together made it tranquil and insightful rather than uncomfortable vignettes. Regrets can always be changed, so don’t limit the available possibilities.
The common theme that the end of the world films usually has is people doing crazy and wild things because what the hell? The world is ending. Even though that idea is a surrounding point to the movie, it’s not what it’s about. I didn’t mind because it makes for a fun film, but How It Ends is different because watching people do crazy things idea on the last-day-on-earth is overused and uninteresting, but when it is the undertone of the movie, it makes it different. This movie’s main point is loving yourself and finding a way to forgive before the world ends. I mean, we never know when that will happen. I loved the message of self-love and acceptance journey that Liza goes on to find her inner peace. Liza’s ability to communicate with strangers on the street and reconcile with herself is a resounding message I believe many people can relate to and need to hear right now for a film set in 2020, the peak of isolation from others. As the clock approaches the end of the day, it appears that nearly every significant conversation has taken place. Or as many as you can in a single day at least. At a time, the world is still hoping to come back together in the aftermath of the pandemic; it’s safe to say we’ve all undergone some soul-searching. Isolation tends to have that effect on people. The writing of How It Ends is done exceptionally well in the film that it’s hard to miss the message that it is sending to its audiences.
Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars
How It Ends was indeed a fun ride that pulls at the heartstrings and will make us think about what regrets we have in life and if we have the courage to fix them. There was not one dull moment, and watching Lister-Jones and Spaeny acting together was what I needed during this pandemic. If you love comedy and wanting to see original comedy with Lister-Jones’ dry humor with a dash of sarcasm is something you need in your life right now or when it becomes available for the public. If you don’t well, who am I kidding? You’re going to love this movie too—no doubt about it. Do you know how I know this? Movies with dry humor and sarcasm are not my cup of tea because I don’t get the jokes; it’s not funny to me. That’s how I know.