Genre: Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi
Directed by: Lorene Scafaria
Starring: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley
Browsing the cinema listings with my sister recently was somewhat demoralising. Unlike most of our peers we weren’t particularly excited about either The Amazing Spiderman or The Dark Knight Rises. Having considered, then ruled out, attempting to pass ourselves off as OAPs in order to get into a special ‘Senior Screening’ of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, we eventually settled on Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Lorene Scafari’s new comedy about an unlikely couple who meet in the last weeks before an asteroid collides with the Earth.
The film’s premise was appealing, but reviews have been mixed and I wasn’t sure that Steve Carell and Keira Knightley would be able to pull it off without being either too sentimental or too self-consciously quirky. In the end they were a little of both, but somehow it worked, although it must be sad that these two actors make something of an odd pairing, not least because of the 20-year age difference between them, which is slightly implausible even for Hollywood. As Dodge and Penny, however, Carell and Knightley did manage to create moments of genuine sadness as the true hopelessness of their characters’ situation became clear, but the film as a whole was saved from being entirely maudlin by a great supporting cast of comic characters who were able to lift the mood considerably. And if the news really came in that the world was about to end, I think Seeking a Friend offers a pretty realistic portrayal of how people would react. On the one hand, there are the hedonists who plunge wholeheartedly into substance abuse, rioting and orgies in an attempt to forget about the impending disaster. One of my personal highlights was Dodge and Penny’s visit to a Friendsy’s restaurant where the staff’s enthusiasm is beginning to take on a slightly deranged quality as the drugs start to kick in. Then, on the other hand, there are the people who try to go on with ordinary life as best they can, like Elsa, Dodge’s cleaner, who refuses to let him fire her and finally bids him farewell with a cheery “See you next week.” There is something wonderfully human about these characters, most of whom make only brief appearances. The majority of the film is, of course, centred on Dodge and Penny’s relationship, which they both know must be compressed into a painfully short space of time.
In the end, though, this is more than a simple love story, and Seeking a Friend poses some pretty big questions about life itself. After it is announced that the asteroid cannot be stopped and will hit the Earth in three weeks, most people abandon their day-to-day lives because they don’t see the point in going to work if they’re going to be dead by the end of the month. The problem is that, even without the asteroid, none of us are getting out of here alive, so where do you draw the line? How much time left do you need to have for it to be worthwhile? There aren’t any easy answers, but I left the cinema with plenty to think about. The Senior Screening may have had discounted tickets and free tea, but on balance I’m glad I spent my afternoon watching Seeking a Friend instead. After all, time is a finite resource.