Runtime: 84 minutes
Director: Zoe Lister-Jones, Daryl Wein
Writers: Zoe Lister-Jones, Daryl Wein
Stars: Zoe Lister-Jones, Cailee Spaeny, Larmorne Morris, Logan Marshall-Green
By Tom Moore
Full of delightful, offbeat comedy and a variety of familiar faces, “How It Ends” is a unique journey of self-discovery and self-love on the eve of the apocalypse.
“How It Ends” might be the first film I’ve seen that clearly looks like it was filmed during the pandemic, mainly because it depicts a completely vacant Los Angeles. The visual of seeing no one on the streets in definitely something that makes its apocalyptic setting more daunting, but definitely less realistic. It’s tough to believe that on the last day on Earth as a meteor comes to decimate all human life that the streets of one of the populated cities in the US would look completely abandoned. The atmosphere can definitely feel a little off because of this, yet this sense of extreme emptiness oddly works for the film’s premise where the incredibly introverted Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones) and her metaphysical younger self (Cailee Spaeny) as they trek across LA to fulfill some regrets before the world ends.
Lister-Jones and Spaeny are a comedic power duo that are an absolute force together. Lister-Jones makes Liza’s introverted personality never come off too cynical and is perfectly light in the interactions she has with unique, sometimes eccentric characters. She’s certainly doubtful about herself but is never a total buzzkill and has some pretty fun moments with her distant parents and her best friend Ala (Olivia Wilde). Spaeny is the total opposite as Liza’s younger self as she brings this outgoing positivity that’s fearless and fun throughout. She’s constantly pushing Liza to make big moves on her final day and reminding her why she matters. Spaeny, to me, is a rising, underrecognized talent and this film continues to prove her as a multi-talented lead. Together, these two are just constant fun and play around with the film’s strongly diverse cast well.
Outside of Lister-Jones and Spaeny, the cast features plenty of familiar faces that Liza and her younger self run into throughout their adventures. The rest of the cast ranges from well-known comedic actors like Nick Kroll and Fred Armisen to more dramatic actors like Logan Marshall-Green and Helen Hunt. Pauly Shore even comes to play a fictional version of himself and as a “Human Giant” fan, it’s great to see the likes of Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer come together again as a pair of feuding neighbors – even though their segment doesn’t last that long. Everyone works with the film’s offbeat comedy feel incredibly well and plays a good part in some of the funny interactions Liza and her younger self have along their journey.
As said before, seeing Huebel and Scheer as feuding neighbors arguing about recycling is fun. Liza has a hilarious reunion with her best friend Ala that has so much hand-movement and chatting over each other that they clearly vibe together in a great way. Not to mention, Ala’s premonition of who Liza would spend time in the afterlife with was funny. It’s great how the film uses the idea of Liza having her younger self at her side by having people begin to notice her more, which freaks Liza the hell out, because of their heightened awareness of it being the last day and them even coming across the younger self of someone else. One of the best interactions that these two have is with Liza’s toxic ex Larry (Lamorne Morris) since he just gives her a hilarious run around and has been dealing with exes all day. “How It Ends” doesn’t exactly offer the most consistent laughs between all of its interactions that are more like stitched together sketches than flowing story beats, but it utilizes its big, talented cast well.
Also, even though most of the story is more like skits, there is a deeply personal story of self-love that comes from Liza’s younger self getting her to accept herself. The last act of this film is really where it ties its story together as Liza’s younger self really confronts her about how she’s never letting herself be happy or progress in life. It’s a very emotional turn for the film that works and brings out some strongly human elements to the world coming to an end. There’s a great moment between Liza and her crush Nate (Marshall-Green) that expresses how genuine their love is and an even greater moment for Liza and her younger self that has her recognize how she’s not so alone. Lister-Jones and Spaeny really kill it with the great dramatic turn their performances take and Lister-Jones’ closeness with the material definitely makes her performance more personal. While starring, Lister-Jones also co-write and co-directs “How It Ends” alongside Daryl Wein and her ties to the film definitely comes through in her performance making for a very relatable and emotional story of self-growth during tough times.
“How It Ends” is a great showing of Lister-Jones being a great force both behind and in-front of the camera as she leads a talented ensemble alongside an equally great Spaeny through an offbeat comedic trek about discovering self-worth.