The End We Start From review | Jodie Comer leads a bleak vision of ecological disaster

jodie comer the end we start from
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A new mother and her baby must learn to survive in a near-future tearing itself apart. Here’s our The End We Start From review.

The End We Start From will not make you feel good.

It’s a rare near-future dystopia that will, to be fair. Set in the midst and aftermath of a series of floods large (and wet) enough to break down civil society as we know it, the story finds lone mother Jodie Comer and her newborn battling against Children Of Men-style settlement camps, rampaging looters and, yes, rather a lot of rain. It’d be pretty miserable even if it didn’t feel so imminently plausible.

True to form, then, there are very few laughs to be had in The End We Start From. For the most part, this doesn’t matter all that much – the script by prolific stage and screenwriter Alice Birch (based on Megan Hunter’s debut novel of the same name) is, if nothing else, tonally consistent. The increasingly stressful situations Comer’s unnamed protagonist finds herself are powerfully plausible. The pile-on of abandonment, betrayal and human disappointment in the face of existential catastrophe prove a pretty compelling argument to recycle our yogurt pots and stop voting for climate agnostics.

Even so, Mahalia Belo’s film has a tendency, if not a compulsion, to dwell on the premise’s horror at the expense of its humanity. Comer and her baby have an undeniably grim time throughout, usually consisting of anxiety and melancholy rather than the usual survival thriller terror, but we never really learn much more about them.

Comer is, as usual, very accomplished in the lead, but the unrelenting bleakness of the script doesn’t leave her much room to show off a more memorable, human side. Despite the title, the result by the end of the slow-burn 101 minutes feels less like an opportunity for rebirth and more a melancholic plod into seasonal depression. The January release of the film in the UK probably couldn’t any better tie into the national mood.

Still, the rest of the cast, which includes Katherine Waterston, Mark Strong, Joel Fry and Benedict Cumberbatch (who also serves as producer), are universally excellent, and the whole thing is pulled off with a degree of polish somewhat at odds with its muddy subject matter. It also feels churlish to unreservedly criticise a film about the effects of the climate crisis for not being cheerful enough.

the end we start from jodie comer and katherine waterston
Credit: Signature Entertainment

But it’s not as if the film itself does much to dwell on the whole ‘ecological catastrophe’ side of its premise. Instead, our focus is routinely drawn back to the human dynamics at play – the selfishness, paranoia and misery on display define its narrative far more than the occasional massive, London-destroying flood ever could. It’s just a shame there’s not much reason to root for Comer and co other than that they’ve had such an awful time they probably deserve a break.

From the moment SunnyMarch and Hera Pictures acquired the rights to Hunter’s novel in 2017, it seemed pretty clear why anyone would want to make The End We Start From into a film. After seeing the result though, that reasoning becomes, if anything, less clear. Broadly uninterested in the details of climate crisis itself, but simultaneously unable to define its characters beyond the broadest of strokes, the film only feels more mystifying as it progresses. It remains a handsomely made, well-performed take on the most important issue of our times – but the result ultimately lacks the personality to stick in the memory once the floodwater recedes.

The End We Start From arrives in UK cinemas on 19 January.

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