How It Ends

  • 10 Jul - 16 Jul, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

A gently funny take on the last-day-on-earth microgenre, Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein’s How It Ends sets its protagonist (Lister-Jones) up with an ambitious to-do list, then slows her down so she can appreciate the journey.

In How It Ends, a planet-killing asteroid is due to hit Earth. If this news ever inspired panic in the streets or widespread bacchanalia, those stages of grief are over now: In this polite vision of humanity’s end, most Angelenos seem content to hang out at home, looking inward. Liza (Lister-Jones) plans to get high and eat until she pukes. She’s talked out of this by a young friend (Cailee Spaeny) we guess might be her kid sister.

The kid is actually Liza’s younger self, a Greek chorus for her grown-up behaviour, and she’s not exactly imaginary. As the day passes, some strangers can see her; it seems that impending doom has made them more attuned to the spiritual plane. At any rate, Young Liza consistently nudges her elder self toward engagement with the world. She gets her to agree to go to a friend’s party tonight, and to attend to some emotional chores beforehand.

Liza decides that today she will: confront her father about his lousy parenting (and maybe muster the courage to face the mother who abandoned her); make amends with a friend (Olivia Wilde) she fell out with years ago; and tell off the ex-boyfriend (Lamorne Morris) who didn’t deserve her. But her car’s been stolen, so she’ll have to cover all this ground on foot.

If Liza encounters anyone on these eerily almost-empty streets, that person is likely to be on a deeply personal mission of her own. This is a day when a school teacher (Ayo Edebiri) will set up a PA on the sidewalk and finally live her standup-comedy dreams; when around any corner you might find Sharon Van Etten sitting in the middle of the street, singing quietly to an audience of none. But the scenario’s amenability to random cameos also allows for many purely comic or whimsical moments, and bits with Charlie Day, Rob Huebel and others keep the film from becoming overly precious.

In How It Ends, the world’s sudden stillness isn’t causing anyone to lie awake at night, tallying up the months of unpaid rent. Tomorrow, landlord and tenant will be reconciled forever, so each might as well spend the afternoon looking for inner peace. Sounds kind of nice, actually.