Contemporary England is subject to horrific and sustained rainfall resulting in devastating flooding. Low lying cities are laid to waste and people scramble to find shelter in higher ground. Soon humanity turns on itself, trampling on each other for scarce food parcels. Some choose to find shelter and blissful isolation in island communes. Others choose to cling onto their past, their memories and some kind of future.
Within this world, we meet Jodie Comer (Killing Eve) - a young hairdresser - and her husband (Joel Fry). She gives birth on the night of the flood, and our threesome have to somehow navigate this disaster with a small baby. The high concept of the film is to show us the everyday frustrations of being a mother in this context. Comer's character finds companionship with another mother played by Katherine Waterston. It's a touching and rarely seen story of shared burdens, sympathy, and female friendship and strength.
Mahalia Belo’s debut directorial feature has a lot going for it - an assured visual style; some stunning landscape shots; and some haunting CGI-effect depictions of a post-flood London achieved on what was presumably a small budget. Belo even elicits good performances from her cast - not least the deeply talented Jodie Comer in the lead role, but also Katherine Waterston who arguably has the best-written character.
The problem with the film, based on a novel by Megan Hunter adapted by screenwriter Alice Birch, is that it feels underwritten. There is very little that is new in disaster movies, to be sure, and this film has nothing new to say about the likely human response other than combining it with he insecurities and trials of new motherhood. Even worse, the characters feel underwritten. I didn't feel that Comer had anything much to do here (contrast with her exceptional performance in THE BIKERIDERS). Poor Joel Fry has even less to do. There's a moment at the end which is meant to be very deeply affecting but as I didn't really believe in the characters of their relationship outside of Comer and Waterston, that moment had no impact on me. We also have a handful of cameos, but none of them really amount to much.
So, while I very much look forward to seeing what Belo does next, I hope she has a stronger script to work with.
THE END WE START WITH has a running time of 96 minutes. It played Toronto and London 2023. It will be released in the USA on December 8th and in the UK on January 19th 2024.