Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” is probably the funniest, quietest, and most romantic movie about the end of the world you’re ever going to see. There aren’t any big action set pieces driven by special effects. The focus of the film isn’t on the politicians or astronauts trying to save the planet. Instead, it focuses in on two people coming together and accepting the inevitable during their last remaining days on earth. It’s a warm, charming apocalyptic romantic comedy with much more humanity than something like “2012” or “Armageddon.”
Steve Carell has mastered the art of playing lonely, depressed individuals in their 40s. Here he plays Dodge, his glummest character since “Dan in Real Life.” Like everyone else, Dodge is distressed over the asteroid that will destroy earth in a matter of weeks. What makes matters even worse for Dodge is that he has nobody to experience the world’s end with. His wife Linda, played by Carell’s real life spouse Nancy Carell, has cowardly abandoned her husband. Poor Dodge begins to wonder if Linda ever really loved him upon learning she was having an affair during their marriage.
After rummaging through a pile of old mail, Dodge comes across a letter from a high school sweetheart. Dodge begins to consider what might have been and decides to spend his last remaining hours with her. The airlines and phones are out of commission. Thus, Dodge hitches a ride with his young, hipster neighbor, Penny, played by Keira Knightley. “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” is a road trip movie from this point on with Dodge and Penny finding console in unlikely places.
Among all the celebrities I’ve been dying to see teamed up, Carell and Knightley weren’t exactly high on the list. To my amazement though, they actually make for a miraculous team and share one of the best on-screen relationships of the year. Both performers are perfect in their roles with Carell as the aging sad sack and Knightley as the youthful free spirit who brings some needed light into Dodge’s last days. Lorene Scafaria, who previous worked on “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” wrote and directed “Seeking a Friend for the End of the Universe.” Her gift for developing meaningful relationships, capturing star chemistry and incorporating a killer soundtrack is what additionally makes the film work.
“Seeking a Friend for the End of the Universe” is also very funny in places too, most notably a scene in which Dodge and Penny hitch a ride with unforeseen results. Some audiences may grow restless in the film’s second act, which is much heavier on drama than comedy. These sentimental scenes are well earned though and effectively play into the movie. That’s more than can be said about a movie like “Click,” which was schizophrenic in its dramatic and comedic shifts of tone. The final minutes of the film are particularly breathtaking, not copping out with the happiest of endings. This is a light, comforting movie about the most tragic of circumstances. Seeing how the world is allegedly going to end this December, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” might be the exact movie we need right now.