Recently I had one of those weeks where everything was going fairly well and yet I found myself crying almost every day. And it all started with Seeking a Friend for the End of the World! I went to a press screening the Monday of that week with low expectations for what looked to be a way kooky movie. After all, how could mashing up the apocalypse with a quirky romantic comedy turn out well? But as Lorene Scafaria‘s (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) directorial debut unfolded, I found myself opening up to Steve Carell and Keira Knightley‘s characters… and then letting out loud, wracking sobs while sitting beside my middle-aged film critic colleagues. It was utterly embarrassing, and yet I was too wrapped up in the movie to care how I looked or sounded.
I stumbled out of the screening room blinking blearily and sniffling like an idiot. How could this random indie have reduced me to an emotional wreck out of nowhere? On the subway ride home, I kept turning over my outsized reaction and came to a startling realization: I was at this weird intersection in my love life where I found this movie doubly emotional. Partly because I’ve just come out of the break-up of my first long-term relationship and partly because I’m having plenty of drama being single.
Long story short: In March, my college boyfriend of four and a half years Josh broke up with me. We’d been living together for almost a year, but lately things had unraveled: He’d lost his job, we never saw each other, and we were having screaming matches until 3 a.m. He’d fallen out of love with me and believed that we had to end things now before we completely hated each other. I was devastated. For weeks after, I cried myself to sleep most nights and occasionally at the office. He and I didn’t speak for two months, during which time if I would have a good or bad memory — I was the one living in the apartment after he moved out — I would simply shove it away. I slowly started to mend, staying emotionally numb where Josh was concerned but developing a greater appreciation for my friends and the artists I worked with.
I was even open to seeing other guys. After all, I’d been in a relationship for almost five years; it was freeing to see other people. Here I might have made a misstep, however, in only getting involved with guy friends who I already knew (so there was a level of comfort) but who I was attracted to. One made a move on me, but then got guilty about his girlfriend and left before we slept together. Another one I had great sex with, but a few weeks later he started seeing someone seriously and suddenly us sleeping together wasn’t really an option.
The prevailing pattern here was me waiting on other men. Back when I wanted Josh and me to get back together, and when he decided that we wouldn’t talk to each other until he was ready, I had to wait on his say-so. I thought that Guy #1 might leave his girlfriend and date me instead. Guy #2 seemed to leave the door open to fooling around but said that he would reach out to me. In every case, it was me twiddling my thumbs while the men in my life took their sweet time.
You know what they don’t have in Seeking a Friend? Time. When the movie opens, a 70-mile asteroid is careening toward Earth and will wipe out humanity in about two weeks. Steve Carell’s character decides that he has to reconcile with his first love before he dies; Keira Knightley is desperate to make it back to England to spend her final days with the family she took for granted. Chance throws them together on a fun road trip, during which the overly-cautious Dodge and the self-absorbed Penny genuinely become friends.
From here on in, I’m going to be discussing spoilery plot points.