Manila – As the writing and activities such as back-to-back media seminars wrapped up with the last days of the past year, I found time to check on movies on Netflix. I receive email messages from the streaming service notifying me of the next films to watch, which I never got to check.
But I was able to catch “Leave the World Behind,” a psychological thriller that suggests an impending apocalypse and everyone loses their phone signals, internet connections and television broadcasts because there’s a blackout. The film’s upsetting premise is that when these happen, a chaotic end of the world may not be far behind.
It was my first time seeing the dark side of rom-com sweetheart Julia Roberts, who sets the film’s tone that humans are dreadful when she said, “I f*cking hate people,” as she drags her family to an away-from-it-all weekend vacation from their Brooklyn apartment to a Long Island mansion that she booked on Airbnb.
As they start to find a semblance of relaxation and peace, absurd things happen, and the film has a way of building the tension from there. While they’re sunbathing, a cargo ship docked away from the beach suddenly hurtles toward the shore.
Other scenes show dead bodies and remnants of personal belongings, with wreckage from planes that lost power and signal, washed up on the beach. I was more terrified of the self-driving, obviously weaponized white Tesla cars ramming into each other and blocking the roads. The scene with hundreds of deer showing up in the garden, just standing and staring, is equally disturbing.
On the first midnight, the mansion’s owner, played by Mahershala Ali, and his daughter, knock on the door to say they need to stay in their house due to the citywide blackout in New York. The two families, with mutual prejudices, have to co-exist in a difficult situation in which there’s little information to know what exactly is going on.
The lack of info was worsened with conversations about pessimism, lack of neighborliness, terrorism, class and racial tensions, a possible cyberattack, lots of conspiracy theories and wondering if there is a government plan or if there’s someone in charge of the world.
Toward the end of the movie, Rose, the teenage daughter who complains about possibly not being able to watch the series finale of “Friends” due to the power outage, gets out of the house and enters a neighbor’s vacant home, where she finds a bunker with power working, a full-screen TV, storage stocked up with years' worth of food supply and a large shelf with stacks of DVDs.
She takes out the “Friends” DVD from the shelf and plays the last episode. The film ends with the comedy series' opening soundtrack, “I’ll Be There For You,” playing in the background.
Rose, who says "Friends" makes her happy when asked why she watches it, shows how one can be oblivious to the world ending.
I’m a “Friends” fan and I think I can buy this hasty movie ending because having noticed how apocalyptic thrillers are shown during Christmas until the start of the New Year, it says a lot about how it is to be human. You just have to do what you like doing as you fade away.
Diana G. Mendoza is a journalist based in Manila. Send feedback to email@example.com