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Life has not treated Dodge (Steve Carell) terribly well: his wife couldn't run out on him fast enough when Asteroid Mathilda set sights on Earth, his father left him as a child, and now there is no time to reconcile what he has with what he wanted. Penny (Keira Knightley) has had a similar experience. Her family views her as a "flake" and she has wasted most of her days with boyfriends on a lower spectrum. By sheer luck, she has the letter Dodge has been waiting for his entire life.
With the aid of several passers-by, friends, family, and a cute dog, Dodge and Penny hope to reunite with their loved ones.
Steve Carell has stated in interviews that his recent selection of parts will be defined by how well they reflect the human condition. Nothing is ever completely funny, nor completely melancholy, and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a representation of that.
The marketing of the film would have one believe that it is a comedic vehicle for Carell and nothing more. What unfurls is a tale not of how people meet their end, rather, how they should have lived their whole lives.
Carell and Knightley have such great chemistry that one almost forgets that the world is going to end. Even when sharing a few bowls of pasta and a vintage record they are a genuine pleasure to watch. Conversely, it is that much sadder to see them together knowing the time they have is so short. It is a bittersweet moment, but a thoroughly enjoyable one.
Critics have taken Seeking to task for losing focus on actually destroying the world, but that gaze seems short-sighted. Life is less about how it ends than what occurs before opening your eyes for the first time and closing them for the last. Director Lorene Scafaria avoided the pitfall of losing the narrative to appease Armageddon-junkies. In doing so, she may have made of the finer films about the end of the world.
To the last person left, please turn out the lights.