Photo Courtesy of TIFF.

#TIFF23: “The End We Start From” is Quietly Poignant Reflection on the End of the World 

Editor’s Note: This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labour of the actors and other creatives involved in the project(s) mentioned here, Pages and Pictures would not exist. Pages and Pictures stands firmly behind SAG-AFTRA members as they fight for fair labour conditions. 

The End We Start From is a deeply poignant reflection on the climate change crisis. It is a hard-hitting, topical narrative about the nature of humanity’s survival. This simple and contained story has an urgency to it that’s impossible to miss. In the midst of world-altering chaos, this movie manages to reflect on the nature of humanity and what is needed to survive seemingly impossible odds. 

Immediately, what makes this story magnetic is its steadfast focus on the personal stakes unfolding at the end of the world. Jodie Comer is the perfect protagonist to anchor this story from the end of the world. The fact that the character is unnamed adds a universality to this character. Her struggles are deeply relatable, and her actions are understandable. She is an Every Woman thrust into this chaos who singlehandedly adds credibility to this fictional story. 

This family also illustrates the heartbreaking reality of what surviving the apocalypse would mean to actually exist within this new world. This is a realistic portrait of how a family would have to navigate surviving the end of the world. So many elements, like a “shelter” being reserved for women and children only (which then promptly gets raided), raise authentically troubling questions of how society would cling to the most meaningless distinctions, even at the end of all things.

The End We Start From also captures the sense of hope that is necessary for survival. The fact that this story maintains a balance between the almost unbearable uncertainty about the future with the promise that life has to continue somehow. While it is, of course, easy to imagine that not everyone would find a reason to carry on living in the face of such destruction, it’s also true that so many would have to dig to the depths of their emotional reserves just to survive day to day. The movie shows that this would be no easy task. The characters make clear that this would involve immense sacrifice. 

Finally, the way that this story incorporates the water itself as a character is nothing less than enthralling. It’s always there, giving and taking life. It’s frankly breathtaking to watch these characters confront the reality of a force that can never be controlled. This is an effective way to integrate a force of nature into a deeply human story. The fact that the water is always in the background shows in every scene that it’s impossible to escape the natural world.

Creating a post-apocalyptic world is hard to do. However, this story is a deeply captivating one. By maintaining focus on the humanity throughout the story, the gravity of the larger picture is easier to appreciate. This is a simple story, told with a lot of nuance. Ultimately, it is a timely reflection of the state of the real world, and what we can all do to ensure humanity’s survival.

The End We Start From was featured at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.  

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