The End We Start From (2023) poster

The End We Start From (2023)


UK. 2023.


Director – Mahalia Belo, Screenplay – Alice Birch, Based on the Novel The End We Start From by Megan Hunter, Producers – Adam Ackland, Leah Clarke, Sophie Hunter, Amy Jackson & Liza Marshall, Photography – Suzie Lavelle, Music – Anna Meredith, Visual Effects – Rebel Unit (Supervisor – Theodor Flo-Groenenboom), Special Effects – Artem (Supervisor – Richie Beacham-Paterson), Prosthetics – Millennium FX (Designer – Rob Mayor), Production Design – Laura Ellis Cricks. Production Company – Hera Pictures/SunnyMarch Productions.


Jodie Comer (Woman), Joel Fry (R), Katherine Waterston (O), Benedict Cumberbatch (RB), Mark Strong (N), Gina McKee (F), Nina Sosanya (G)


In London, a woman is about to give birth to a baby. As she and her partner R head to the hospital, the city and entire country are subject to torrential downpours that cause massive flooding. Unable to return to their flooded-out home, they head to R’s parents place in the countryside only for R’s mother to be killed by looters not long after they arrive. R cannot go on and so the woman heads north on her own with the baby. She takes shelter at a refugee camp where she is befriended by O, an American woman who also has a baby. As the camp is raided by marauders, the two flee north into Scotland where O believes they can find refuge among a commune on an island.

The End We Start From is a British arts film. It comes backed by the prestigious BBC and British Film Institute, while having its premiere at TIFF. It is based on The End We Start From (2017), the debut novel for Megan Hunter, who says she wrote it to explain Climate Change and death to her children. Director Mahalia Belo had previously worked in British tv with mini-series such as The Long Song (2018) and the standout horror mini-series Requiem (2018).

The End We Start From is a Catastrophe Film. The details of the catastrophe are never specified – just torrential flooding that occurs throughout England. The hows and whys of this are not gone into, nor the question of whether the torrential flooding occurs solely on the UK mainland or other countries as well. (It would certainly be odd from a climate perspective to have just a single country affected by torrential downpour for days on end to the point where cities are flooded and people rendered homeless on a mass scale, but for this not to occur anywhere else). England did undergo a more regular Disaster Movie treatment of the same idea with the mini-series Flood (2007).

Jodie Comer as Woman with her baby in The End We Start From (2023)
Jodie Comer as Woman with her baby, making her way through a catastrophe-ridden England

Much of the film follows Jodie Comer, joined in the early sections by Joel Fry and in the latter half by Katherine Waterston, as they travel through the countryside that is in a state of social collapse, seeking shelter in homes and abandoned buildings, while facing marauders attacking people for supplies and invading the refugee camp. Through it all they seek sanctuary, which becomes a commune in the centre of a Scottish loch at the end. This has a number of similarities to The Road (2009), which had Viggo Mortensen and son travelling through an analogous devastated world seeking shelter and scavenging for supplies, although The End We Start From is a far less bleak film.

I didn’t feel there was anything particularly bad about The End We Start From. It has a strong cast in small supporting parts and is even produced by Benedict Cumberbatch who turns up in a small part as a grieving husband. Both Jody Comer and Katherine Waterston stand out in the two roles as the new mothers. On the other hand, the film never moved me. It felt picaresque, the photography and scenery dour, but what it lacked was a dramatic drive – there is no urgent struggle for survival, desperation or of imminent starvation to the characters, just a slow journey by displaced people through ruined landscapes. Given such, the ending, which does take the story back to where it started from, seems a wrap-up that is unrealistically optimistic and upbeat given the millions of deaths that must have occurred with a catastrophe and starvation on the scale we see depicted.

Trailer here

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