Review: ‘The End We Start From’

Jodie Comer Mesmerizes As A Mother Fleeing A Climate Catastrophe

The End We Start From is a post-apocalyptic survival thriller…but then it’s also not. There are no large-scale, massive displays of cataclysmic damage. No meteors hurling towards Earth, or other acts of destruction. Roland Emmerich wouldn’t know what to do with a small-scale, intimate story as this, which centers on a woman, a new mother, as she attempts to flee the aftermath of a flooded London. Fortunately, director Mahalia Belo knows what to do with this story. And most certainly, star Jodie Comer knows what to do with such thoughtful, urgent material as this.

The film begins cleverly with an image that mirrors the fate of the world; as a bathtub occupied by a very pregnant Mother (Comer’s character goes unnamed) fills with water. Outside, torrential rains begin to dominate London, leaking into the home under the front door and every other possible opening. She is almost immediately hit with another problem. As if things weren’t soaked enough, her water’s broken and the baby is coming. Calls to her husband (Joel Fry) go unanswered and she has to do it on her own. Belo, in keeping with the tone of the entire film, doesn’t exaggerate the birthing process. It’s difficult, and painful, especially in such water-logged conditions, but one that shows Mother’s strength, resolve, and protective nature.

Playing out like a domestic drama, you could almost forget that The End We Start From is about a world that finds humanity on the brink. The new parents journey to the home of some friends, but when resources grow scarce, we see the full crushing weight of the despair some are coping with. That forces them to journey forth once more, only to face starvation, parental anxiety, and the ongoing threat of other desperate humans. Along the way, others in similar predicaments are encountered. Katherine Waterston plays a mother journeying alone, who becomes a close confidante in trying times. Benedict Cumberbatch also has a small but surprisingly joyful role as a man who allows the women a brief opportunity to cut loose and have some fun. Moments of true happiness are few and far between, washed away in the rushing flood waters.

The film is penned by Alice Birch, based on Megan Hunter’s novel. Birch has penned other female-centric dramas before, such as Lady Macbeth, Mothering Sunday, and The Wonder. She has this way of showing how women navigate their way through a world that is largely out of their control. That idea is taken to extremes here, but it also pushes mother’s survival instinct, her maternal nature, and more to extreme levels. Comer has pretty much proven that she can play any kind of role and do it masterfully, carrying this film almost entirely on her sturdy shoulders. Whether engaging in a romantic tumble with her husband, nursing a starving child, or scrambling away from certain death, Comer delivers an expressive, physically challenging performance that demands she shift gears at a moment’s notice.

The End We Start From isn’t for those looking for rapid action with people fleeing from one natural disaster after another. It moves slowly, and deliberately, and captures with realism the way society breaks down, leaving the people behind to swim against the tide. There isn’t a ton of story here, though, and could probably have been accomplished in half of the time. But then, we’d also get half as much of Comer, who continues to mesmerize no matter the role.

The End We Start From is in select theaters now, expanding nationwide on January 19th 2024.

The End We Start From
Travis Hopson
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.
review-the-end-we-start-fromThe End We Start From is a post-apocalyptic survival thriller...but then it's also not. There are no large-scale, massive displays of cataclysmic damage. No meteors hurling towards Earth, or other acts of destruction. Roland Emmerich wouldn't know what to do with a small-scale, intimate...