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The End We Start From ★★★★



Directed: Mahalia Belo

Cast: Jodie Comer, Joel Fry, Katherine Waterston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Gina McKee

Release date: 24th January 2024

It can often feel like we are on the verge of an ecological disaster with the melting poles and constant news about climate change. The End We Start From, adapted from the novel of the same name, takes these fears and plays on them: what would happen if suddenly large swathes of the UK were submerged by torrential downpours and floods. Set in what more or less passes for our current climate, it doesn’t take much to see this reality panning out. It is the debut film from acclaimed TV director Mahalia Belo and stars Jodie Comer as a new mother trying to navigate this perilous new environment that no one is expecting or prepared for.

Instantly with a London close to our own, there are comparisons to other films, perhaps the most pertinent being Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men, which also speaks of a largely unseen incident and a realistic dystopia. Especially in the film’s first act, there is a constant feeling of unease and dread as mother and baby try to stay one step ahead of the weather and an increasingly feral population looking to keep fed. In places, it almost verges on horror, which suits the situation and constant need to move from one location to another.

Eventually, the tone shifts into a drama with the introduction of Katherine Waterston, playing another new mother who shares fantastic chemistry with Comer and injects the film with some humour that it had been lacking, which certainly lightens the mood. Outside of Comer, the rest of the cast takes more of a back seat. She again proves why she is so highly regarded, showing her versatility, imbuing her character with a fierce determination and a sense of vulnerability, elevating the film. Mark Strong, Gina McKee, Benedict Cumberbatch and Joel Fry are, as you’d expect, dependable, but the film belongs to Comer.

Alice Birch continues to prove her worth as a screenwriter, following on the heels of Lady Macbeth, The Wonder and Normal People, and this a competently staged debut for Mahalia Belo with some strong visuals of the UK countryside, amplifying the chaos in the cities. CGI of submerged London is impressive and used sparingly to never feel overly distracting.

If not quite as strong as something like Children of Men, The End We Start From is an impressive debut feature with a strong cast anchored by a stellar lead performance from Jodie Comer. The slow buildup of tension shows the horror of the situation, and it makes fine use of its locations.

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