A witty, clever, touching movie about the end of the world – who’d have thought it? Canadian filmmaker Don McKellar, that’s who, since his 1999 movie ‘Last Night’ ticked all the boxes left unchecked by this latest pre-apocalyptic twist on a tired date-movie formula.
The end is nigh, once more, when a massive asteroid heads towards us, and fortysomething, insurance-selling nerd Steve Carell is facing oblivion on his tod. His missus has done a runner, prompting the realisation that a long-gone old girlfriend was actually the love of his life. As law and order breaks down, he hits the road to find her, taking along his newly single neighbour Keira Knightley, a ditsy narcoleptic with a thing about old vinyl records. And yes, you did read that last phrase right.
Where Lars von Trier made striking use of a similar scenario to explore the skewed moral perspectives of the manic depressive in ‘Melancholia’, here the destruction of all life on Earth is just a plot device to get this oddest of couples into each other’s arms. Writer-director Lorene Scafaria brings nothing new to the on-screen depiction of the end of days – even if the movie’s best moment comes right at the beginning with a choice gag at the expense of classic rock radio. And when it comes to emotional resonance, the movie is totally unable to sell the ultra-reserved, charisma-free character played by Carell as a guy you’d want to spend your final hours with.
Meanwhile, hard-working Knightley is defeated by the contrivance of her role. Though it’s clear we’re meant to be moved by the big finale, the sight of these two together is so unsettling it’s hard not to start rooting for the asteroid.