Sundance 2021 Film Review – How It Ends (2021)

We have all pondered it, haven’t we? Just what would we do if there was no tomorrow? If the world was going to end at midnight and there was nothing left afterwards, no consequences, no issues, no repercussions and, of course, no hangovers, just where would you go? Such thoughts have become a little louder in the last year as the world faces a crisis like nothing we have ever seen post-war and while there is no physical asteroid heading for us like in Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones’ contemplative dramedy, there certainly has been a mental one over our heads in 2020 that, hopefully, will change course soon.

Lister-Jones leads the film as Liza, a 30-something who struck it big inventing an app that she sold for millions allowing her to live her life as freely as she chooses. However, she has been stuck in something of an early mid-life existential crisis that has seen her younger self (a film-stealing and wonderful Cailee Spaney) manifest herself into her life once more. That alone could send someone a little loopy, let alone knowing an asteroid is on a collision course with Earth and destined to wipe out all life in a matter of hours. Pushed to try to better herself and clear her scattered, messy conscience Liza’s head across LA to make amends with friends and family before they all leave this plain for the next.

What’s remarkable about How It Ends is how Wain and Lister-Jones were able to use the restrictions of the pandemic to their advantage in such brilliant ways. Cleverly structuring their end-of-the-world tale in line with the deserted roads of Los Angeles and the safety protocols in and around the city, they have managed to utilise the uniqueness of the situation to the fullest, celebrating life in all its forms and facades. Reflection has been uppermost in people’s minds in recent months, and here they have been able to mould a story that deals with the crisis but also takes stock of the important things we must cling on to at all costs.

There’s a fair measure of quirkiness in here that might not be everyone’s taste – and, at times, that side does grate somewhat, especially when the plethora of cameos becomes a little irksome – but the inner workings of the tale are universal and reflect many things that are at the forefront of everyone’s lives right now. With its unique humour and observations, whilst beautifully capturing the always remarkably photo-friendly Los Angeles and all its intricacies, there is much to enjoy here in a pithy, wistful and celebratory film about the power of living life to the fullest – and safest – whenever we can.

★★★

Drama | USA, 2021 | 15 | 2021 Sundance Film Festival | Dir.Zoe Lister-Jones | Zoe Lister-Jones, Cailee Spaeny, Whitney Cummings, Finn Wolfhard, Logan Marshall-Green, Bradley Whitford