Leave the World Behind (2023) Movie Review – Now this is how the world really ends

Now this is how the world really ends

Leave the World Behind has dropped on Netflix, and despite the setup of this one sounding like another A-List movie that looks at how the world ends, it actually conveys how we would all act with one another if society were falling apart. Because, let’s be honest, we were all kind of acting like these characters did in this movie a few years ago!

An adaptation of the novel of the same name by Rumen Alam. Leave the World Behind follows Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke as husband and wife, Amanda and Clay, whose quick little weekend getaway out of New York City is disrupted by two strangers at their doorstep that coincide with a blackout happening nationwide.

The two families must learn to coexist in a failing world while learning how to ward off any existential dread within all of us. At the helm of this is director Sam Esmail, famously known for Amazon’s Homecoming and Mr. Robot.

There’s unease throughout the movie. We don’t see this kind of surprising anxiety in films often. You know something bad is coming, but getting there is a long journey. And oddly, the movie takes place over the course of a few days, yet the two-hour and twenty-one-minute movie feels like more time passes in it.

Still, it’s never a snore to get through. Hawke and Roberts play a married couple with teenage kids. They don’t go for the whole ‘couple that needs to get divorced after the kids leave for school’ trope. But there are signs that they are anxious about the world around them.

Robert’s character is annoyed with people, so on the spur of the moment, books a mansion outside of the city through Air BnB. They pack up and cut ties with the world for a few days.

Then little things that grow into massive mishaps take place. A tanker ship spotted out in the ocean during a beach trip by the family eventually makes its way to land and crashes into the beach. The passage of time is interesting in the two-minute sequence.

Farrah Mackenzie, who plays Rosie, sees the ship way out at sea. Cut to later in the day, and the thing is calmly headed straight for the beach. This is the first warning sign that communication in America has gone down.

That night, Amanda and Clay are visited by the perceived owners of the home. George and Ruth Washington, the father-and-daughter pair played by Mahershala Ali and Myha’la Herrold. They needed a place to stay out of the chaos of New York City, so they went to the home that Amanda and Clay had booked for the weekend.

Here is where it is hardly addressed but clearly mentioned just by observing the situation. Amanda lets her guard down eventually and lets George and Ruth stay in their own home, in the basement, while they get the rest of the house. There’s a bit of a commentary on race relations being addressed here, although it is hardly used in words.

The families slowly let their guard down while the world around them begins to crumble. But this movie is not about the spectacle of the world coming apart. It’s about the dynamics amongst us, the human race, when something like all communication goes down in a country in terms of cell phone service and wi-fi and what we are forced to do. There are no big explosions, just Tesla’s having a mind of their own and deer frolicking around the woods more frequently.

Everything about Julia Roberts’ character is reactionary. The fact that she has no cell phone reception or internet and can’t make sense of her isolation makes her go mad. Yet, she’s not superficial; she cares for her family. She cares so much about the protection of her child that you sort of half sympathize with her guard being up when George and Ruth show up. It may make her look prejudiced, but she also has two children to protect.

Leave the World Behind was a novel released in 2020, and boy, what a prevalent story it was for then. As a viewer, you’ll remember feeling what these characters go through. One month you were Clay, the next you were George, and by summer 2020 you were either Amanda or Ruth. Still, this never feels like some political thriller or the fall of man.

It could be argued that it’s about the existential dread we all have when faced with uncertainty on a grander scale. Leave the World Behind feels reminiscent of end-of-world movies like Miracle Mile, Take Shelter, or Melancholia.

But there is also evidence that it’s about some sort of bigger thing watching us. We see subjective shots that make it feel like someone is looking at these characters from afar. We even cut to shots of space and the moon, like we were expecting to see something there signaling why what’s happening is happening on earth. But there’s nothing.

The movie feels like it’s laughing at its audience because we’re all sitting there waiting for some answer. And even if Kevin Bacon’s small part in the film tries to give us one, we still won’t get it. There’s a sense of nihilism to it, but it’s also funny because it’s kind of making fun of us for our yearning for deep understanding.

A great scene is when George is having wine with Amanda, and he shares what could be construed as a reason behind the blackout but ties it to a bit of a conspiracy by a certain group of overlords that look after the world. And just when you think you’ll get an answer to all this, his dialogue reels us back in, and we never hear much more about what he thinks about all of this ever again.

Leave the World Behind won’t make you worry about the end of the world, because maybe that already happened a few years ago. It may make you think of the days in your house during a pandemic and how you tried to wrap your head around having an answer for something bigger than you. And that is just something that none of us can ever accomplish in this lifetime.


Read More: Leave the World Behind Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 6.5/10

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