Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a simple movie that asks a complex question: what do you value when the world is ending? This is the central question that main character Dodge (Steve Carrell) has to discover and then answer.
Dodge is an insurance salesman drudging through his existence. His wife leaves him three weeks before an asteroid is supposed to destroy the earth, which shakes up his routine after a few days. He randomly meets the giftedly-whimsical and friendly neighbor Penny (Kiera Knightly). Penny longs to find someone who can fly a plane to take her home to Surrey, England, to see her family before the world ends.
After spending some time with Penny, Dodge learns that his high school sweetheart is still in love with him. He decides this is the last chance for him to connect with someone he loves, so with Penny and a dog named Sorry in tow, Dodge makes one last journey to find the love of his life and he promises Penny a plane to England once he reunites with his true love.
One of the things that makes this film so remarkable is that every moment spent with Penny and Dodge is treated with complete honesty, humor, and respect. Everything that happens to these characters during their road trip feels real and is sometimes humorous.
Dodge hates being honest about the harsh reality that the world is ending so much that he can’t even tell his Mexican cleaning lady that she doesn’t have to clean his house anymore. He is afraid of disrupting her routine and he plays life safe until he meets Penny.
Penny is young and is doing her absolute best to experience life before the world ends. She helps bring Dodge out of his routine and comfort zone. Through Penny, Dodge learns to love life again and, as the story progresses, we learn more about what these characters were like when life wasn’t going to end.
Steve Carrell turns in a touching performance as Dodge, a man who has prided himself on dodging emotions and risk. Carrell does the smart thing in this film and doesn’t play the character as angry, but rather as a person who neglects to see and seize life’s opportunities. Watching Carrell open up Dodge’s personality throughout the film is a complete joy and by the time it reaches its foretold climax, you only wish you could spend more time learning about his character.
Kiera Knightly is the last actress I would think of when casting this movie, but this is her best performance yet. She initially comes off as flighty and kooky but, as the film progresses, her charm, wit, and intelligence show through in a character that could have been a one-note personality.
Lorene Scafaria capably directs Seeking a Friend for the End of the World by focusing in on characters’ faces so we can see how their emotions change throughout the three weeks. She rightly knows never to pull away from the connection that is slowly being formed between Penny and Dodge, which makes the ending of the film painful but satisfying.
I have longed for a story about strangers realizing how great they can be and this film left me thoroughly pleased that I had taken the journey with Dodge and Penny. I value life a bit more now because I saw this film and if it moves you as well, which I hope it does, maybe you will value how precious life is too.