The End We Start From
Genre: survival, drama
Director: Mahalia Belo
Starring: Jodie Comer, Joel Fry, Mark Strong, Katherine Waterston, Benedict Cumberbatch
Premiere: digital services (Vudu, Prime Video, Apple TV+)
Release year: 2023
London. It’s raining cats and dogs, although such weather for the capital of the United Kingdom, as is known, is a common and even mundane phenomenon. But this time, nature had its own plans for Albion. A young pregnant woman awaits the imminent arrival of her child, but an ecological catastrophe in the form of a flood catches her by surprise. However, the heroine manages to reach a hospital operating on generators and give birth to a baby boy. And there is no delay in the return of her husband, who was away.
Since London is considerably flooded, the couple with the baby in their arms seeks shelter with the husband’s parents, who live in a rural area unaffected by the disaster. They have a cozy house, food supplies, and the newly minted grandfather has a hunting rifle, so they can hunt rabbits if necessary. But after some time, a food crisis catches up with the heroes, and they will have to make a dangerous outing in search of food. As the surrounding world gradually begins to go mad, the young mother will have to do everything to protect her child and not die of hunger.
It is immediately worth noting that “The End We Start From” is far from our usual disaster movies with grand scenes of flooded metropolises gracefully sinking underwater. It’s a modest, unhurried, and infinitely gloomy film that tells the story of the difficulties of motherhood and not so much about a fierce struggle for survival as about the opportunity to return to where you feel happy.
Right from the debut scene, water in the bathroom symbolically fills the frame while the main character is absent-mindedly going about her business. A little later, the camera captures her reflection in a coffee table, which unmistakably hints that the world will soon be turned upside down. Yes, the narrative here is focused precisely on the young mother and the challenges she will have to face, while the external world barely interests the creators – director Mahalia Belo and screenwriter Alice Birch.
And along with that, there is no need to somehow blockbusterize the plot, make it more populist or spectacular to please a wide audience. It’s worth keeping that in mind before watching.
Even with the awareness that everything around will never be the same as before, the heroine cannot imagine herself in an environment alien to her. Her longing to get home at any cost, to where it all began, indicates not so much a desire to return to a past life that no longer exists, as a rebirth, a chance to start anew. After all, water, besides being a powerful and destructive force of nature, is also one of the main sources of life. And along with the suffering mother, the disaster can lay the groundwork for the rebirth of the entire surrounding world.
Despite the modest portrayal of the apocalypse, which mostly occurs off-screen, the creators managed to convey a sense of hopelessness before the impending catastrophe, including on a personal level.
There is no room for ostentatious heroism here; on the contrary, the husband behaves like a coward because he doesn’t understand how to act in an extreme situation. The chaos that engulfs society is realistically depicted: hungry queues for food, looting, man preying on man, and so on.
Let’s not forget that flooding as a massive ecological disaster is a familiar topic to us Ukrainians, especially those who suffered from the terrorist sabotage of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station last summer. This terrible event is not a writer’s invention or a whim of Mother Nature, as in the movies, but the actions of miserable creatures that reveal their essence. Unfortunately, this is our harsh reality.
The camera, like glue, follows Jodie Comer’s heroine everywhere and never lets her out of sight for a moment.
Thus, on the shoulders of the 30-year-old owner of the “Emmy” and the British Academy Film Award for her role in the series “Killing Eve” (and another BAFTA for the drama “Help”) lies a great responsibility, and the actress copes with it perfectly. Here she has a scene where the heroine hysterically beats on a wire fence, instantly reminding us of another powerful mom, Sarah Connor. However, the latter faced the fiery apocalypse, and even in a dream, while here we have a very real one, and the cause of trouble is water.
Other stars, including Benedict Cumberbatch, fit well into the plot, but they are too episodic to claim full viewer attention. Only Katherine Waterston’s character is memorable.
Films like “The End We Start From” defy rational evaluation. Critics like them more, and the mass audience much less, and it will all depend on how much metaphoric slow stories in general, and this one in particular, about the power of motherhood, unity in difficult times, and rebirth, resonate with you. Otherwise, it’s better to choose something from Roland Emmerich’s high-budget blockbusters, may he be blessed with health.
“The End We Start From” is worth restrained attention if you are confident that you currently need a gloomy, far from entertaining movie. Otherwise, you’ll be bored, but even in such circumstances, at least you’ll be provided with meaningful long shots of Jodie Comer.