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Leave the World Behind Movie Review

Leave the World Behind (2023)

Watch Leave the World Behind on Netflix // Buy the novel (paid link)
Written by: Rumaan Alam (based on the novel by), Sam Esmail (written for the screen by)
Directed by: Sam Esmail
Starring: Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke, Myha’la, Kevin Bacon
Rated: R
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A family’s getaway to a luxurious rental home takes an ominous turn when a cyberattack knocks out their devices and two strangers appear at their door.

This posits one very efficient way for how the world would end. We look at it from the perspective of just one house, and how discord and distrust ebbs and flows between two families. Our downfall is our reliance on technology. If you take that down, we have little defense. This movie is full of striking imagery and ideas. We trust technology for news and entertainment. In the event of an apocalypse some will seek information to determine the cause others solace to escape it.
Watch It.

This has a great cast, and I like what Esmail did with Mr. Robot. This certainly has a unique style. In one of the first few scenes Amanda (Julia Roberts) looks into the camera and states she hates people. That is definitely an ominous predictor.

Amanda plans a spur of the moment vacation for her husband Clay (Ethan Hawke) and their children Archie (Charlie Evans), and Rose (Farrah Mackenzie). They rent a fancy vacation home on the beach, but this vacation is almost too perfect. It’s everything they want, until things go strange.

Farrah Mackenzie, Charlie Evans, Ethan Hawke, Julia Roberts play Rose, Archie, Clay, Amanda

G.H. (Mahershala Ali) and his daughter Ruth (Myha’la) knock on the door of the house late at night claiming to own the home. Amanda is anxious about late night visitors, and seems a bit racist. While it could just be her concern about the world at large, there’s truth coming out in that fear. Ruth pushes back, understanding exactly what’s being said by Amanda while Clay tries to diffuse the situation. G.H. wants to stay the night due to a blackout in the city. Amanda is resistant though G.H. is incredibly patient.

G.H.’s story doesn’t quite add up, but a national alert on every television channel indicates something is wrong. G.H. and Ruth seems to know more than they reveal. Some kind of countrywide cyber attack has shut down communications. This is why G.H. wanted to be out of the city.

Anxiety is the theme, from strangers on your doorstep, the world ending, to Rose eager to see the final episode of Friends. There’s also the question of what’s up with the deer, but I think that’s an indication that the world has turned upside down. It’s a metaphor that makes the humans uneasy even if they don’t understand what it means.

I began to wonder if this movie can pay off what it’s setting up. We reach a point of what could be peak weirdness or the movie just getting started. How is everything happening to this one group of people? A plane crashes right where G.H. was standing. While G.H. claims he saw the downfall coming, that seems like a stretch. If he truly saw the end of the world coming, wouldn’t he have done more to prepare?

Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Mahershala Ali, Myha’la play Amanda, Clay, G.H., Ruth

The movie is broken up by title cards; “The House”, “The Curve”, “The Noise”, “The Flood”, “The Last One.” The ‘noise’ makes a story that’s already quite strange even more unhinged.

The movie concludes we’re too connected. Bringing down the network leads to widespread chaos. It affects planes, boats, and cars. Travel in any moderately inhabited places becomes untenable. The world is ending, and we’re focused on what’s happening in this one house.

This does a great job of creating tension. We’re waiting for ‘it’, whatever it is, to happen. So many weird things occur and the confusion keeps us engaged and enthralled. We want answers, but there’s also this theme of who do you trust and how much do you trust them. Amanda has no way to verify what G.H. states is happening. His story would sound ridiculous if they hadn’t seen the world crumbling around them. The loss of cell reception and television is enough to make everyone uneasy. They no longer have a connection to the world at large. G.H. states this is how you bring down a government. This movie is a glimpse at how easy it would be. This is how the world will end.

I wondered if the conclusion would match what this builds. It’s an understated
ending but effective. As much as we rely on technology, it’s also our
biggest comfort. Even with the world ending, a screen can provide
comfort and help us ignore the sky falling around us. That’s how this
ends, with a character seeking comfort, and that’s a striking thought. There are a lot of ideas in this movie, and it’s well done. It captures paranoia. Once communications go down, there’s no way to figure out what’s happening. That fear leads to chaos and a survival instinct. While we don’t witness it in this movie, we know people could get desperate. If you want to bring down a country, make them take themselves out first.


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