Goodbye World (2013) – Review

Directed by Denis Hennelly
Written by Denis Hennelly & Sarah Adina Smith
Starring Adrian Grenier, Scott Mescudi, Mark Webber, Kerry Bishé, Caroline Dhavernas

Okay, let’s be honest about this. How many of the events that took place in this film would have happened anyway? Setting this get-together in the middle of nowhere during the time of an apocalypse that was going on somewhere else is a bit of a problem for the story. Pitching this as an end-of-the-world movie just isn’t fair. Granted, we didn’t need fire and brimstone (just as well, as we didn’t get any) to tell the story of the aftermath and of society going to ruin. Some might say you just need to look out of your window any day of the week, after all. The cast of Goodbye World are, certainly for an hour or so, completely unaffected by events going on in the real world. So really, is this even what the film is about at all?
If anything, the impending doom for everyone apart from our featured cast, allows these privileged  ex-college buddies to contemplate their own mortality and the reliance upon rules that only really work when everybody follows them. Already stockpiling drugs, food and other essentials, and powered by the sun, it is quite right to suggest that without interference, these people have only themselves to fight with, which inevitably, they must.
When a virus is released upon the transmission of a text message that simply reads ‘Goodbye World’, sent to just about everyone, it has dramatic and disastrous effects on society. Quite how this is supposed to happen is alluded to, if not completely understood by most (I include myself in this clearly witless bunch), but we don’t get to see it first hand. Our players are seemingly immune to the problems going on around them and so decide to rake up old problems of their own. Loves lost and then found again, once hushed financial responsibilities are brought to the fore, as if the world around them has simply ceased to be. Rather than actually doing something about it, given their fortunate positioning at the time of the crisis, they choose to get stoned and romp naked in the hot-tub. Are these then the meek that shall inherit the earth? I hope not, as God will be properly annoyed if that ends up coming true.
So rather than a “WTF! Now what do we do?” story, which you might reasonably expect, we get muckraking and idle gossip. The neighbours at the foot of the hill on which this self-sufficiency palace proudly stands is making do, gathering the helpless and needy, taking in the local waifs and strays in an attempt to help the whole that so desperately needs it. Our lords of the manor up above refuse to help them with medicines and also refuse to allow two soldiers to stay with them, who end up at the aformentioned commune down below. As an audience, if you bring a pessimistic opinion to the theatre, then you will probably start to side with the featured cast, at least to begin with. They are protecting their own interests, and seemingly at all costs, but throughout the running time, you are very likely to become frustrated by these people, that spend altogether to much effort on ‘Bubble Time’ and searching for fairies in the woods than helping themselves or, more importantly, others.
Ultimately, you have to ask what was achieved by presenting this cast of characters to us? Are they a mirror for our own shortcomings? Is the writer/director Denis Hennelly asking us what we would do? I mean it even says so in the trailer. But it isn’t a fair question, as you will see for yourself. The plot plays out continually baiting its audience by featuring selfish, repellent characters that you wouldn’t waste more than five minutes on should you meet them in reality. Unreliable and self-absorbed people are never attractive at the best of times, but at the cost of the well-being of everyone else, they naturally become even more loathesome.
The performances by the cast are very good and are (unfortunately) all too believable. The running time never feels laboured and the stories held within would be intriguing if not for the portent of death and destruction happening just over the hill, not far away. As a character study, it is well-written, hence the negative feelings generated towards the characters, so you have to say that these elements worked well and if Hennelly wanted to show us at our worst, then he has succeeded to a greater extent in at least that department.
An impressive, well-delivered script makes the film very watchable, but don’t expect to feel good about events by the conclusion, which smacks too much of ‘Little House On The Prairie’ to be believed, given all of the information we have just been provided with. A good job by all concerned. I didn’t hate it enough to feel like creating my own call to action, but enough to get my gander up, which can only mean it was written and performed well enough to elicit such a response.

 

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