Written by: Matt Patti | March 21st, 2021
The End of Us (Steven Kanter/Henry Loevner, 2021) 3½ out of 4 stars.
With the current state of the world and the 2021 SXSW film festival being all online, one year after the outbreak of Covid-19, it is no surprise that some films in the festival would be centered around the pandemic. What is surprising, to me at least, is that my favorite film of the festival would be a drama featuring the coronavirus. This drama, The End of Us, follows two exes, Nick (Ben Coleman) and Leah (Ali Vingiano), who break up right before California issues its stay-at-home order. Now, they are forced to remain in the same house, even though they are no longer a pair. The differences between the two begin to widen with every moment they live together and so they must attempt to adjust to both quarantine life and living with each other post-breakup.
I was unsure of how I would enjoy seeing an event that has brought so much harm to so many, but The End of Us displays it perfectly. The film captures the early days of coronavirus well, emphasizing how things shut down so quickly, causing so many people confusion and fear. As the film progresses, our characters adapt to the new living conditions, but it doesn’t get much easier as they have to go through the growing pains that many of us have had to go through, such as arguing with people close to us about the seriousness of the pandemic, internet-connection struggles, changing to a work-from-home setup, dealing with outside noise, and much more. The characters wrestle with some of these changes in hilarious ways, which provides most of the comedy in the film. All in all, it is one of the most relatable films I’ve ever seen, a cathartic viewing experience that shows the audience that they aren’t the only ones facing these struggles.
Although the relatable struggles of quarantine are just some of the film’s best assets, the other elements are just as gripping. Even if the filmmakers took Covid-19 out of the story completely, we would still be left with a compelling drama-comedy with intriguing characters. The differences between the now split-couple are very apparent: Nick is an ambitious-but-failing actor who isn’t always the brightest, but is funny and sweet; and Leah is a smart, responsible businesswoman who is sometimes uptight but is comforting and provides stability. Though Nick and Leah are so different, they have real, perfect chemistry, aided by remarkable, grounded, authentic performances from Coleman and Vingiano. Both Nick and Ali have faults and redeeming qualities to their characters, so it is not a one-sided affair where the audience sympathizes with only one character; they can relate to both. The awkward tension between the two after the breakup is cultivated well, making the viewer feel just as uncomfortable and trapped as they are.
The only drawback to the movie is that the conclusion is a tad rushed, almost as if it were tacked on at the end. It seems like there is no great emotional peak to the narrative and that the film just suddenly ends. Perhaps this was the director’s intention, since it adds to the realism of the situation. Overall, however, The End of Us is a satisfying, fun and heartwarming slice-of-post-covid-life film that excels at almost everything it does. It features a simple, but engaging, plot that draws the viewer in and makes them want to stay.
I’m not usually one that seeks out dramas, but this film was at the top of my list for SXSW 2021 and I’m so glad I chose to experience it. Maybe it’s the fact that this is one of the first films I’ve seen to feature Covid and shows how other people are dealing with some of the things I’ve dealt with. Or maybe it’s because it is a very well-made, personal drama with exceptional performances of layered characters that have great chemistry together. Obviously, it’s the combination of both, and The End of Us is a film that I think everyone, regardless of how they feel about the pandemic, should see.