Wednesday, March 17, 2021

SXSW with Abe: The End of Us

I’m thrilled to be covering SXSW for the third time. This year, I’m not in Austin, but watching films virtually and reviewing them as soon as I can.

The End of Us
Directed by Steven Kanter and Henry Loevner
Narrative Feature Competition

Living through a pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone. Even the healthiest, wealthiest people with all the space in the world have surely found it difficult. Those without means and with preexisting conditions have endured a harrowing year since lockdowns and quarantines were instituted, and many didn’t survive after contracting coronavirus. As with any situation, there is a more lighthearted, humorous way to look at it, imagining an added layer of complication to make isolation and social distancing feel even more unbearable. This comedy handles it in an invigorating and highly entertaining manner that feels very fresh and fun.

Leah (Ali Vingiano) and Nick (Ben Coleman) live together in Los Angeles, but their relationship isn’t really working. Leah finally has the uncomfortable conversation and tells Nick that they need to break up. Unfortunately, her timing couldn’t be worse, since the next morning is the first day of a new normal. Since his friends and family members are wary of exposure, Nick isn’t able to find anywhere else to stay, forcing him and Leah to become unwilling roommates as they process their changing feelings. Leah’s burgeoning romance with a coworker, Tim (Derrick Joseph DeBlasis), only adds to the awkwardness since her live-in ex-boyfriend has no choice but to witness it happen right in front of his eyes.

There have already been and are sure to be many more cinematic stories about living through this pandemic, and at a certain point, especially while some restrictions are still in place with an end only distantly in sight, it’s not appealing to watch reality reflected back on screen. But this film subverts expectations by giving both its protagonists plenty of personality, augmenting the differences between them in a fantastic way as they grow further apart emotionally but are forced to remain even closer than ever before. Whether their levels of cautionary behavior will be quite as amusing once mask-wearing and being six feet apart are a thing of the past is hard to know, but in this moment, this film feels like the perfect kind of comedy.

Vingiano and Coleman make a great pair, playing fantastically off each other as Leah and Nick become increasingly passive-aggressive. Leah is the straight-laced, serious one while Nick isn’t great at actually achieving anything, but they’re both dynamic, and it’s very welcome when the film allows them brief opportunities to switch roles of responsible and reckless. They’re their own people but also so representative of recognizable components in any relationship or household, and this film makes excellent use of strong characters and superb actors with an equally competent and enjoyable story to surround them.


No comments: