#SXSW: “THE END OF US”
Review by David Baldwin
Nick (Ben Coleman) and Leah (Ali Vingiano) have been growing apart when we first meet them. One evening, Leah decides she has finally had enough and breaks up with Nick. She wants him to move out of the home they share, but the morning after brings a new unforeseen hiccup – a statewide stay-at-home order called due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the broken- up couple is stuck living together, unsure of what the future holds for themselves and whatever remains of their fragile relationship.
THE END OF US is a super-depressing title, built on the foundation of a super depressing subject. COVID-19 hovers over the Film influencing both characters’ decisions, as well as their hyperreal fears and anxieties. Despite this, it thankfully puts more emphasis on the characters’ relationship, injecting a heightened sense of honesty and truth into the Film that so many of us can identify with as our own experiences since last March. There is a poignancy to many of these moments, and even a little bit of dry humour to offset how stark the reality of their situation is. With everything we get to see and learn about Nick and Leah, I could not help rooting for them to start fresh and forget the past. At least, that was how I felt before THE END OF US stumbles in a late second act pivot that feels like it was ripped out of a bad sitcom. I understand why it happens and what it accomplishes in terms of the narrative, but it feels inorganic and forced. There was definitely a way things could have played out differently and still felt true to the rest of the film.
Whether they are together or alone, Coleman and Vingiano deliver solid performances that really tap into the current cultural zeitgeist. They understand and are finely in tune with their characters’ plight because they are actively living through it. Watching their growth as characters alternates between being wonderful and miserable; there is no real middle ground. If the Second Act shift were more organic, their performances likely would have been even stronger. While the Film is mainly a two-hander, I did get a kick out of Derrick DeBlasis’ character Tim, Leah’s co-worker. The way he plays the pretentious Film Bro douchebag worshipping at the altar of the Criterion Collection gave me a good laugh or three, and he revels in making Tim the kind of shit weasel you love to hate.
THE END OF US screens at SXSW Tuesday, March 16, 2021 starting at 5 PM.