Seeking a Friend for the End of the World: What’s It All About?

The end of the world has always been a fascinating theme to explore in a film. You have no shortage of options, from the zombie-related apocalypse and alien invasion to extreme climate change and nuclear disaster. Apocalyptic movies typically are action-packed, serious in tone, dramatic, or perhaps tragic. Everything dies and there is little anybody can do about it. The 2012 film Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, however, is quite different. The apocalypse comes from an impending asteroid impact, so it is like “Armageddon” except for every single detail.

Instead of getting busy saving what they can, the main characters are preoccupied with finding something else: true love. The obliteration of the planet along with all life forms on it—as forbiddingly gloomy as it may seem—doesn’t have to be such a lame end. Before the day comes, everyone can probably still get a few laughs and a bit of romance. When inevitable deaths are coming closer, true love might just help you ease the passage.

Directed by Lorene Scafaria, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” is a romantic comedy set against the backdrop of an imminent apocalypse. There is a 70-mile-wide asteroid travelling at high speed on a collision course with Earth. All attempts to stop it have failed. A newscaster on the radio says the impact will happen in a three-week period and promises to bring up-to-the-minute coverage until it is all over. And then the radio returns to a normal classic rock program. The indifference in the newscaster’s tone is immediately heard again in Dodge’s words. The supposedly terrifying announcement doesn’t seem to bother Dodge Peterson, the main protagonist in the film. And then the story kicks off.

Left with no hope for survival, people take their frustrations to the street. They do all sorts of things you can expect when there are no more consequences. Some people loot electronic stores and steal the biggest TV they can find, while others engage in massive orgies. Everyone is welcome to wild parties with free drugs, but there are scenes of mass baptisms as well. Cable news come up with new catchphrases and radio stations have their own countdowns.

Dodge Peterson, an insurance salesman in New York, is not interested in such irresponsible indulgences. His friends respond to the looming apocalypse by ditching off all self-restraints and encouraging him to follow suit, but he resists anyway. Now that his wife has left him after hearing the news in their car, Dodge seems to have no one to share the time awaiting the end of days. He doesn’t set out to find her, but instead moons over his high school sweetheart, Olivia.

A neighbor, Penelope “Penny” Lockhart, is just about as unlucky. She just broke up with her boyfriend apparently because he made her unable to come back to her family in England. The first encounter between Penny and Dodge seems alright until she gives him all his mail that was incorrectly addressed to her for the last three years. From some of the mail, Dodge realizes his wife has been having an affair all along. After a failed suicide attempt, he revisits the unopened mail and finds one from Olivia in which she explains Dodge is her true love.

As for Penny, she cannot go to England now because all flights have been grounded. Thankfully, Dodge knows someone who might fly her back to England and promises to take her to the person if she helps him find Olivia. A deal is made; the two set out on a trip for the same purpose, that is spending their last days with their loved ones. Starting from this point on, the film slowly clearly indicates what it is all about the search for life fulfillment.

They meet all sorts of people during the journey including the mysterious Glenn, the practical survivalist Derek, and the bunker-dwelling Speck, to name a few. Penny and Dodge even have sex and spend time together in jail. It is the end of the world, so one peculiar thing after another throughout their journey can never really surprise anybody.

Two weeks before the asteroid impact, most Americans (and probably people anywhere else in the world) behave like every day is the last day. It should really be sadness all over the place, but everything makes for light humor instead. The story moves forward when Dodge finally arrives at Olivia’s home and Penny flies to England, only to realize they have already found what they’re looking for: love and each other.

After about 100 minutes of driving about, meeting strangers, and making amends with others, the predictable conclusion materializes: love is all that you need. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World simply wants to let you know the only worse thing than the apocalypse is to die alone without knowing that you are loved.

We think Seeking a Friend for the End of the World could have been a truly exciting film, a fresh take on the typically bleak view of the apocalypse. By injecting romance and comedy into the mass extinction event, it has the potential to deliver memorable dark humor at every turn. Instead, the film explores the “world’s end” topic lightly and lets itself drowned in mild rom-com routines oblivious of the incoming asteroid.

Have you watched the film? Do you think of it as just another rom-com or an apocalyptic film? We’d love to hear from you.

Other things you might want to know

Who portray Penny and Dodge?

Penny is portrayed by Keira Knightley, and Dodge is played by Steve Carell.

What other movies are directed by Lorene Scafaria?

She has directed two other movies so far: The Meddler (2015) and Hustlers (2019). Both are comedy drama.

Is the film based on a novel?

No, but the title is inspired by a line in the song Preaching the End of the World by Criss Cornell.

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