Though it concludes differently from Rumaan Alam’s book, the movie stays “emotionally faithful” to the narrative.
There are spoilers below.
The apocalyptic genre is given a distinctive and unnerving twist in the new film Leave the World Behind, which stars Mahershala Ali, Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Myha’la Jael Herrold, and Kevin Bacon. The movie, which is based on Rumaan Alam’s book, follows Roberts and Hawke’s characters Amanda and Clay as they travel to a secluded cabin with their children, Archie and Rose. The proprietors of the cabin, G.H. and Ruth, stop their holiday as they have fled the city due to an undisclosed calamity.
Like the book, the movie focuses more on the people’ growing neurotic interactions over the course of the next several days than it does on the causes and circumstances of the cataclysmic catastrophe that has produced such a rapid social collapse. A claim that surfaced is that this was a planned coup with the goal of inciting dissension among the populace in order to topple the government.
By the time Leave the World Behind ends, viewers will probably be more interested in the fate of the characters they’ve come to know than in the particulars of the triggering incident. The movie ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger: Rose and Amanda discover an emergency message alerting them to the impending nuclear war as well as a Friends DVD when Rose wanders into their neighbor’s bunker while watching the city be destroyed in the distance.
When Rose presses play on the episode, The Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There For You” opens the film. (However, this only raises additional problems for the audience. Julia Roberts stars in and produced this film in addition to her well-known cameo in an early Friends episode. Thus, what exactly is reality?
What occurs with Rose?
Author Rumaan Alam says in a recent interview with Variety that his book “ends with a question mark” and that although Sam Esmail’s adaptation deviates in certain details from the book’s original plot, it stays “emotionally faithful” to the spirit of the story and that it would have been “emotionally dissatisfying” to see the families reunited at the conclusion.
“That kind of story isn’t it,” he states. “I don’t mind watching a large disaster movie where the six or eight principals are saved and brought back together after the disaster, giving you hope that everything will turn out okay. This isn’t the kind of movie, in my opinion.”
“The theatrical experience of watching this movie is so powerful because I’ve had the chance to see audiences respond to the ending three times now, and nobody really knows what to make of it,” he says. “They ask themselves, is this funny? Is this frightening? Is this really the end? And I adore that immensely.”
Regarding Rose and Archie’s particular outcomes, Alam is unwilling to provide a conclusive response. “To be honest, I’m not sure,” he replies. I’ve heard Sam mention this a lot, but he also doesn’t know it. However, this is left open enough for its audience to take ownership of it. I’m not holding back because I don’t have the conclusive response.”