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The End We Start From: Jodie Comer takes the Crown

 Dr Ramandeep Mahal reviews 'The End we start From'

This movie described as a ‘survival’ film, is directed by Mahalia Belo and is adapted from the novel of the same name by Megan Hunter. I haven’t read the novel so I can’t comment on the quality of adaptation of the book. But one thing is sure, it’s one of those films that takes a stranglehold of you and demands your undivided attention. The screenplay by Alice Birch of the Lady Macbeth and Succession fame, is fabulous.

The opening scene of the film is that of a woman in a bathtub played by Jodie Comer, who is better known as "Woman" in the credits. The bathtub is gradually filling up and her body looks huge due to her heavy pregnancy, and the bath offers a relief to her body. We are not aware of any characters’ names except the baby who is named Zep. These nameless characters become symbolic of and represent the humans of the world at large. When we meet the protagonist Jodie Comer in the beginning of the movie, she is heavily pregnant, and her water breaks even as environmental disaster takes over and flood waters inundate London. She and her partner, played by Joel Fry, flee to his parent’s home outside London where they think it is safe but because of the floods the fabric of society starts to break down and nothing is particularly safe. The circumstances bring out the worst in people. Jodie finds herself caught in its crosshairs. Her partner abandons her. She heads north teaming up with another mother played by Katherine Waterson. Katherine Waterson provides a physical as well as a mental support to the character of Jodie Comer. The film has the quality of a dystopian Apocalypse and yet the end holds out hope of a new beginning. On the one hand flood waters symbolise the end of the world, while the birth of Zep symbolizes a new beginning.

The set up and the setting is evocative of films like the Children of Men. The idea of people leaving their homes, being forced to move from one area to another and becoming refugees is very contemporary. So, the struggle to survive an environmental disaster is pivotal to the film. At the same time the film juxtaposes two worlds and draws contrasts and comparisons between them- a world torn by a physical calamity and a world re-shaped by the birth of a child. We have the images of people fighting and shoving for rations with an almost animal-like intensity and we also have images of a single mother caring lovingly for her child in the midst of this chaos for survival.  

Mahalia Belo has done a great job at direction.  The screenplay, the music by Anna Meredith, the montage all meld together to give the film a somewhat surreal and melancholic feel.  If you like the tone of the music, you will also love the tone of the film that is subdued but evocative. It is a film that sticks with you; I mean I couldn’t stop thinking about it even after finishing it. The only problem I saw was that the script moves at a snail’s pace. The opening is good but as it progresses; it slows down. So, this is not a film for those who enjoy a fast-paced survival film. Also, I feel some of the actors have been wasted in the film. Now Joel Fry is a great actor who is better known for comedies. This may be his first serious role, but he doesn’t get much chance to show his serious side in this movie. The cast also includes Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch. These cameos by big talent are sort of squandered away.

The focus of the film is on Jodie Comer who has done a great job as an actor. She is powerful and passionate. There are a few narrative jumps and gaps that, in my opinion, effectively convey the traumatized memories of Comer's character. There’s a lot of rain and some stunning images of lonely landscapes. I actually began thinking what it would be like living in this sort of world, deprived of all bare necessities. One scene that really caught my eye was Jodie Comer playing ‘peek a boo’ game, with her infant Zep by covering her face with her T-shirt and all of a sudden, she bursts out crying with her face covered. The audience can feel the pain of a lonely mother abandoned by her partner who simply remarks, “I can’t protect you!”. One can call this a ‘woman centric’ and a ‘feminist movie’ as the load of the whole movie is on Jodie Comer’s shoulders. I would rate this movie 8 out of 10 solely based on Jodie Comer’s tremendous contribution to this movie.

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Dr. Ramandeep Mahal is currently working as an Assistant Professor of English at Guru Nanak Khalsa College Yamunanagar. She received her Doctorate degree from Maharishi Markandeshwar Mullana Ambala in 2018. Her research interests include Anglo-American Literature, Indian Writing in English, African Literature. She is the author of more than twenty research papers.

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