Wouldn’t it be nice… if the world wasn’t ending?
That question, frivolously phrased and all, is one of many at the heart of doomsday movies. While some apocalypse movies find their characters doing whatever they can to survive an impending disaster, other films take a more intimate approach by exploring simply what happens when everyone knows they’re going to die in a matter of weeks.
The latter is the premise of Hustlers director Lorene Scafaria’s debut feature film from 2012, albeit with a funnier approach. (Just after the radio announces the end of the world, it plays The Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.”) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a surprising apocalyptic comedy about two lost souls figuring out how to spend their last days before mass extinction.
Starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, this charming end-of-the-world movie is now available on HBO Max. Here’s why you should add it to your streaming queue.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World follows Dodge (Steve Carell), just as it was announced that the spaceship, Deliverance, failed their mission to prevent a massive asteroid named Matilda from crashing and pulverizing Earth. Because Deliverance didn’t, well, deliver, the people of Earth only have three more weeks to live before Matilda arrives.
Chaos ensues. Inhibitions go out the door. In the middle of all that sits a depressed and lonely Dodge (Steve Carell). His wife ditched him once humanity’s apocalyptic fate was announced. Between his heartache and impending doom, Dodge drifts like a lost soul until his crying 28-year-old neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley) shows up at his door.
Penny just broke up with her boyfriend and wishes to spend her last days with her parents in England. Once she wipes her tears away, Penny gives Dodge a bunch of mail incorrectly delivered to her for years. In the batch, Dodge finds a letter from his high school sweetheart, who writes that he was the love of her life.
Fate and circumstance lead Penny and Dodge on a road trip to find Dodge’s high school sweetheart and help Penny find a way home to England before the world ends. On their trip, Dodge and Penny encounter various odd characters and funny situations, including a sex orgy at a restaurant inspired by TGI Fridays.
Despite the hijinks, writer and director Lorene Scafaria keeps the movie focused on the blossoming relationship between Dodge and Penny. Their friendship eventually morphs into something different, and the film introduces a will-they-or-won’t-they type of tension that is awkward at times.
Even though Seeking a Friend’s narrative backdrop is an apocalypse, don’t mistake it for a disaster movie. This is a character-driven picture that explores a slice of what human relationships could be like at the end of days.
An aching sense of finality drifts throughout Seeking a Friend, even during its raunchiest moments. Despite Penny’s wide-eyed optimism, there’s little doubt these characters will survive or a miracle will save the world.
While parts of Dodge and Penny’s journey can feel random or disjointed, they culminate in an ending that always leaves me breathless. It’s tender-hearted, vulnerable, and absolutely searing in emotion.
That is to say, this movie has a perfect ending. Does Seeking a Friend earn it? That’s debatable. Regardless, this is one apocalyptic trip worth experiencing.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is now streaming on HBO Max.