Sundance Review: “How It Ends”

Year: 2021


Runtime: 82 minutes


Directors/Writers: Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones

Stars: Zoe Lister-Jones, Cailee Spaeny, Whitney Cummings, Tawny Newsome, Olivia Wilde, Helen Hunt, Bradley Whitford, Lamorne Morris, Logan Marshall-Green, Angelique Cabral, Colin Hanks, Nick Kroll, Fred Armisen

By Morgan Roberts

“You’re on an existential scavenger hunt for your soul.” In “How It Ends” (2021), Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones) is preparing for the last day on earth. A meteor is careening toward the planet and there is no stopping it. At first, her plans are simple: get super high and die alone. Well, not totally alone. Her younger self (Cailee Spaeny) is in the picture. That’s right, her Young Liza is a manifestation that typically only she can see. 

Prepping for her day, she runs into ex, Nate (Logan Marshall-Green), who mentions he hopes to see her at an end of the world party. Her Younger Self then convinces Liza to make amends with those in her life before ending the night at said party to be with Nate. And thus the journey begins. 

Even with the backdrop of impending doom, the film has a lot of heart and hope in it.

There are a number of cameos in this film. From Bradley Whitford playing her dad to Lamorne Morris as her most garbage ex, Helen Hunt as her wayward mother to Olivia Wilde as an old friend. Each person reveals a little bit more about Liza as she comes to terms with the life she’s lived as it’s about to end. 

“How It Ends” was filmed in the time of COVID, and instead of making it about the pandemic – thank God Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein chose a different way of tackling where we are in the world – the film discusses some of the general existential crises we’ve faced: isolation, death anxiety, purpose, and meaning. Having the manifestation of Liza’s Younger Self also added to the film. Instead of getting Liza’s thoughts through voiceover, we get to see her physically interact with the younger version of herself. It also plays on the fact that even as grown-ups, we still have all of the people we were before living inside us. This time, we were able to see them together. Spaeny and Lister-Jones had great chemistry together. They had mirrored mannerisms and bantered seamlessly.

Zoe Lister-Jones and Cailee Spaeny appear in How it Ends by Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Daryl Wein. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Another, equally important character is the city of Los Angeles. Wein did the cinematography for the film as well, and just captured the essence of what makes that city magical. You see the beauty in the area and in the people who inhibit it. Even with the backdrop of impending doom, the film has a lot of heart and hope in it. As Liza and Liza bump into a host of characters, we’re reminded of the power of human connection; how, even amongst the darkest times, there is opportunity to do and be better. 

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