Written by: Daryl Wein & Zoe Lister-Jones
Starring: Zoe Lister-Jones, Cailee Spaeny, Olivia Wilde, Fred Armisen, Helen Hunt
The common saying of living every day like it’s your last sounds like a good idea until that day actually arrives and everyone knows. At the very least it provides the opportunity to get some closure from all the integral people in your life, whether they be positive or negative influences in your overall story. How it Ends takes quite the interesting take on the last day on Earth and while it may struggle in moments as a narrative, the level of sweetness and witty humor does more than enough to create an enjoyable time for all.
With the end of the world on the horizon, Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones) fears experiencing this alone. As she goes around trying to get closure from the important people in her life, she gets accompanied by her younger self (Cailee Spaeny). This meta-physical companion thus comes along with her to interact with a bevy of individuals.
While How it Ends may be a bit too quirky for some, this feature seemingly embodies a film that would be released in festivals for better or worse. Yes, I can acknowledge its faults and how its Coronavirus limitations showed itself to an obvious degree. However, the sweetness of the story manages to capture something impactful about an individual’s views on the world, but more importantly, themselves. Liza takes us on this journey with literally a younger version of herself. This allows for a level of self-reflection not possible other than audiblizing her inner thoughts for us to hear. It makes for such a heartwarming journey with all of the twee comedy one could want.
One of the main selling points this feature has to offer comes from the horde of celebrity cameos appearing to leave their individual marks in the story. From the likes of Olivia Wilde, Nick Kroll, Bradley Whitford, Paul Scheer, Charlie Day, Colin Hanks, and so many more. They do not necessarily portray themselves in the film but in all reality, they are as they bring the trademark quirks audiences have come to love about their presence both on and off-screen. Some appearances have more screen time than others and the level of quality presents quite the gap with some like Olivia Wilde adding a wondrous level of humor and others, which will remain nameless, just serving as an off distraction from the story. Each of these individuals serve as contributing factors for Liza in this journey and definitely contribute to it for better or worse.
Even with many celebrity moments to point at the screen and acknowledge, the film never truly loses focus of its true intention of telling Liza’s story and while she may make some frustrating decisions, she never loses the affection of this reviewer. Everything here comes as a process in acknowledging what she needs in order to be satisfied prior to the end of the world seeing as this comes with a bevy of issues to work through. Issues she thought she would have the rest of her life to resolve suddenly must be handled now or never, which adds a small layer of tension, but the rich people problems occurring here tempers it quite a bit.
Starring, co-directing, co-writing, and co-producing the feature, Zoe Lister-Jones does a competent job in all aspects of her roles in this small feature and makes the most of the circumstances to tell this story. She develops wonderful chemistry with Cailee Spaeny, who portrays her younger self to really capture the sweetness of the story as they butt heads with each other throughout. Her personality and humor make themselves evident as the feature goes on, which allows even the awkward moments to feel authentic to the story. Intimate in its nature, Lister-Jones does well here, which adds to the intrigue of what she will create in the future. She has certainly raised some eyebrows here.
Certainly not for everyone, but a fun time regardless, How it Ends utilizes its bevy of cameos to add enough development to Liza and her journey as the world ends, as it all contributes to a story about loving oneself and that being enough. It makes the interactions between Liza and her younger self so enriching and most importantly, valuable for younger folks to experience. Looking back on our younger selves may cause a bit of cringing, I can certainly speak to that, but they represent us, and the journey Liza goes on encapsulates it all. This alone makes this feature worth seeking out and one that feels like a necessary warm hug.