The End of Us @ SXSW

As stated before we should expect a rash of pandemic films. We are living through it right now and it and its effects have really made an imprint on all humans across the globe. One of those rare occurrences in which all humans on the planet have been affected in one way or another. A universal experience is going to bleed its way into art of all types. Being a visual medium, film really lends to this. Screening at this virtual edition of SXSW is the pandemic comedy The End of Us by Henry Loevner and Steven Kanter (first feature film for both), who both directed and wrote the screenplay, deals with the idea of what would spending the pandemic living with your ex be like?

Breaking up is hard to do. Even under the best of circumstances. Feelings are hurt, angry words are said, sadness is felt, and awkward moments are lived through. We’ve all been through it and it is not pleasant. Rarely ever. So, you can imagine how much harder it would be if you had to go through it during a pandemic.

After being together for four years and living together presently, twenty-something couple Nick (Ben Coleman – first feature film) and Leah (Ali Vingiano – Obvious Child) have another fight which leads to Leah telling Nick she wants to break up. Nick, a largely unemployed aspiring actor, is not prepared for that. It is obviously something Leah has been thinking about and even discussing with her friends.

The break up is made even more difficult because it happens at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Los Angeles, where they live, is going into a kind of lock down and there is nowhere really for Nick to live at the moment. His options are already limited because he does not really have any money due to his lack of work. Plus people are not really open to taking someone from the outside into their houses, so crashing on a friend’s sofa is not really an option. So, kinda begrudgingly, the two decide to keep living together for the present time.

Because Leah pays for everything from rent to the Netflix bill, her irritation with Nick grows. That stress is increased by her preoccupation, and even obsession with, COVID and staying healthy. Then she is actually laid off from her job so she has no money coming in. Tension is high.

Nick is having a hard time with break up and is thinking of ways of getting back together with Leah. He is increasingly irritated by the fact that it seems like Leah is interested in former co-worker Tim (Derrick Joseph DeBlasis – first feature film). As such, the place they live becomes a kind of battleground. They both realize that moving on without moving out is a really tough ask.

A different kind of romantic comedy is what we get with the film. There are plenty of funny moments which make us smile/laugh because they feel so relatable. A case of it is funny because it is true. Many moments and feelings the two exes experience feel are very realistic. Also the two lead actors give really natural performances. Make Nick and Leah very much like people we all know. At times both are irritating and not likeable, but that is kind of what the story needs to move forward to some sort of resolution.

The comedic moments shave off much of the hard edges of the whole pandemic aspect feeling tough to deal with because we are still living it. A welcome part of the film. Plus it all seems rather fresh as the writers/directors do not fall into cliches too often. We do get a little dose of the toughness of celebrating a birthday alone within lockdown and watching a film “together” with someone while on Zoom. These situations are the new normal and we have to all deal with it.

SXSW is the World Premiere for The End of Us.

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