Review: ‘The End We Start From,’ starring Jodie Comer, Joel Fry, Katherine Waterston, Gina McKee, Nina Sosanya, Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch

March 3, 2024

by Carla Hay

Jodie Comer in “The End We Start From” (Photo courtesy of Republic Pictures and Paramount Global Content Distribution)

“The End We Start From”

Directed by Mahalia Belo

Culture Representation: Taking place in England over the course of about 18 months, the dramatic film “The End We Start From” (based on the 2017 novel of the same name) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some black people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: After a woman gives birth to a baby boy during an environmental crisis, she gets separated from the baby’s father, and she has to find ways for herself and the child to survive. 

Culture Audience: “The End We Start From” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Jodie Comer and movies about surviving an apocalyptic-like disaster.

Katherine Waterston and Jodie Comer in “The End We Start From” (Photo courtesy of Republic Pictures and Paramount Global Content Distribution)

Jodie Comer’s riveting performance is the main reason to watch “The End We Start From,” an occasionally vague but well-acted survival story about a new mother trying to survive with her baby during an environmental crisis. It’s a drama where the main character is not identified by any name, and almost all of the characters’ names are one letter in the alphabet, according to the film’s end credits.

Directed by Mahalia Belo and written by Alice Birch, “The End We Start From” is based on Megan Hunter’s 2017 novel of the same name. “The End We Start From” (which is Belo’s feature-film directorial debut) had its world premiere at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival, and then screened at several other festivals in 2023, including the BFI London Film Festival and AFI Fest. The movie takes place in England, where an environmental disaster of massive flooding has caused power outages and homelessness for millions of people. The hardest-hit area is London and other cities that are close to large bodies of water.

“The End We Start From” doesn’t waste time in showing a prolonged buildup to this disaster, because this flooding happens in the first three minutes of the film. A very pregnant woman (played by Comer) is alone at her house during a daytime rainstorm when her house suddenly becomes flooded everywhere. It’s not said out loud during the entire movie, but it’s implied that this environmental crisis is the result of climate change.

The next thing that’s shown is the woman is in a hospital and has given birth to a baby boy. Her live-in partner—identified in the end credits only as R (played by Joel Fry)—is at the hospital too. “The End We Start From” never shows how the woman ended up in the hospital and how R found out that she was there. The couple names the baby Zeb.

The safest places in England during this crisis are elevated areas in the countryside, where R’s parents live. The woman (who apparently doesn’t have any other relatives) and R travel to visit his parents—identified by the letters G (played by Nina Sosanya) and N (played by Mark Strong)—who welcome this couple and the baby. It just so happens that G and N are doomsday survivalists, so they have plenty of food and clean water that they have accumulated in preparation for an apocalypse or other disaster. But how long will it be before they run out of these resources?

During this crisis, the best and worst of humanity is shown. Getting to the house of G and N is an ordeal, because the people in this rural area don’t want outsiders coming in to use their resources. There are government officials supervising roadblocks, and the new mother had to literally beg to be let through the roadblock, by explaining that she and R are there to stay with the baby’s grandparents. It’s doubtful that the couple would have been let through the roadblock if they didn’t have a newborn baby.

Through a series of circumstances, the new mother and R have to leave the home of his parents. And then, she and R get separated from each other. She ends up in a crowded shelter, where she meets another new mother named O (played by Katherine Waterston), who is the mother of a 5-month-old baby girl. O says she has a wealthy friend who’s living in a secure and well-stocked commune. O wants to find a way to get to this commune, which she is sure is a safe place to live.

Benedict Cumberbatch has a small role as a man named AB whom the women encounter along the way. And there’s a woman named F (played by Gina McKee) who meets the two women and has a pivotal role in the story. And what about R? The movie shows whether or not R and his partner find each other again. The entire story in the movie takes place over a period of about 18 months.

“The End We Start From” has a lot of harrowing situations that are very realistic to how people would act during a disaster where food, water, shelter and other basic needs become increasingly scarce. There are some flashbacks to how the woman and R met and their subsequent courtship. The movie’s biggest drawback is that very little is revealed about the main character’s life before she met R. However, “The End We Start From” is still an interesting character study in a competently told survival story.

Republic Pictures and Paramount Global Content Distribution released “The End We Start From” in select U.S. cinemas on December 8, 2023, with a wider expansion to U.S. cinemas on January 19, 2024. The movie was released on digital and VOD on February 6, 2024.

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