SXSW ONLINE 2021 REVIEW: “HOW IT ENDS”

Year: 2021
Runtime: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Director: Zoe Lister-Jones, Daryl Wein
Stars: Zoe Lister-Jones, Cailee Spaeny, Whitney Cummings, Helen Hunt, Bradley Whitford, Logan Marshall Green, Olivia Wilde

By Peggy Marie

Shot entirely during the pandemic, “HOW IT ENDS” takes a delightfully quirky look at one young woman’s journey during her last day on Earth. While it is a bit chilling to note how the streets of LA are essentially a ghost town, it definitely ended up playing in the movie’s favor. Shooting the movie was minimalistic due to pandemic restrictions, but directors Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein use this to their advantage, aptly adding to the general aesthetic of the idea that it’s all about to end.  

The gist of the story is that an armageddon-type meteor is speeding towards a collision course with Earth and will extinguish all life as we know it. Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones) and her younger, metaphysical version of herself (Cailee Spaeny), charmingly referred to as “YS,” take to the streets of Los Angeles on a journey to find one last party and instead find themselves on a journey of self-discovery as well. Initially, Liza has no interest whatsoever in attending this party and just wants to hang out, get stoned, eat a pile of pancakes, drink some wine, and let it all go. Liza’s only problem is well, Young Liza, who pressures her(self) to attend the Apocalypse Party being thrown by Mandy (Whitney Cummings).

“How It Ends” is an interesting and hilarious concept. Part of what makes this film so charming is the realization that until Liza set out on this journey, no one could see or knew about her “YS,” or so she thought. Running into an eclectic cast of characters along the way is all part of the fun and delight here. From a reconciliation with her mom (Helen Hunt), realizing she wants to tell her ex-boyfriend Nate (Logan Marshall Green) that she really does love him, hashing out a long-overdue grudge with her friend Ali (Olivia Wilde), or dropping in on her dad (Bradley Whitford), it’s all in a day’s work when it’s the last day on Earth. Characters having metaphysical younger versions of themselves only adds to the delight as they meet others with the same type of ‘YS’ sidekicks.

While Lister-Jones might be doing triple duty here as a writer/director and lead of the film, it’s truly Cailee Spaeny that carries us up and off, elevating the entire movie and delivering an impressive performance that I just couldn’t help but watch. Truly, they are brilliant together, forming an aura of pure enjoyment and putting a smile on every viewers’ face. Keep an eye out for the standout cameos as well so you don’t miss appearances by Finn Wolfhard, Fred Armisen, Sharon Van Etten, Lamorne Morris, and Colin Hanks.

Honestly, if it ever comes down to the time where all life is about to end, and Earth itself is about to cease to exist … you realize you’re left with nothing but yourself, and all the unfinished business you’ll need to deal with so you can die in peace. Doing something that you might regret later is an inevitability of life, but making amends shouldn’t be left to an extreme chance or to the very last moment when everything is about to end…this is a message I can get behind.

Review screening : Courtesy of 42 West PR and SXSW Film Festival

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