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The Days After Tomorrow: A TIFF Review of ‘The End We Start From’

September 16, 2023Ben MK

When it comes to disaster movies, there are two types — those that deal with the large-scale impact of acts of God like earthquakes, fires and floods, and those more concerned with the human aftermath. Like two sides of the same coin, it's a contrast that highlights the duality of the genre, with the majority of films catering to moviegoers with a penchant for big-budget action spectacle. But with The End We Start From, director Mahalia Belo takes the road less travelled, in this poignant story about a woman struggling to survive a natural catastrophe with her infant child.

Set in the wake of unprecedented rainfall that sees a large swath of England submerged by massive flooding, the movie follows an unnamed couple (Jodie Comer and Joel Fry) and their newborn son Zeb. Driven out of London after the rising waters render their home uninhabitable, they make their way to English countryside to visit Zeb's paternal grandparents (Mark Strong and Nina Sosanya). Their reprieve, however, proves short-lived. And when tragedy strikes yet again and the couple are forced to venture back out on the road in search for food and shelter, they find themselves having to make some tough decisions. With no choice but to temporarily go their separate ways, the woman finds herself befriending another mother (Katherine Waterston), and soon, the pair embark on a journey to seek safe refuge for themselves and their children at a commune just off the English coast. But with the waters retreating and the British government doing their best to reopen major metropolitan areas, it's only a matter of time before returning home becomes an option. Will the woman build up the courage to leave the safety and security of the commune, despite the uncertainty of what she might find?

Based on the 2017 novel by Megan Hunter, the result is a stirring and somber exploration of humanity, parenthood and the lengths people will go to to survive. And with appearances by such acclaimed actors as Benedict Cumberbatch and Gina McKee, there's no doubt that it's also one of the most compellingly acted film in recent memory. Make no mistake, The End We Start From is by no means a disaster epic. But as a thoughtful examination of human behavior in light of such events, it certainly makes a nice companion piece.

The End We Start From screens under the Gala Presentations programme at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 42 min.

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