This is a story about surviving in a post-apocalyptic world, where the breakdown of law and order is shown in real-time through intense acting. It is particularly unsettling and believable because, unlike other similar stories, the plot does not lead to complete chaos. Instead, it depicts how society adapts to disaster and loss as the new normal, with the possibility of a rebirth.
Compared to the American post-apocalyptic setting of John Hillcoat’s The Road or the European apocalypse depicted in Michael Haneke’s Time of the Wolf, this film portrays a distinctly British world-end scenario. This is due to the fact that the majority of the population is unarmed. First-time director Mahalia Belo and screenwriter Alice Birch, who adapted the novel by Megan Hunter, may have drawn inspiration from the 70s BBC TV series Survivors. The film’s depiction of climate change and its impact on low-lying British cities, which are situated near rivers and waterways that will flood, is particularly relevant in today’s world. Many people tend to think of the effects of climate disaster in abstract terms, but fail to realize that it can result in actual events such as fires and floods.
Jodie Comer portrays a pregnant woman residing in London who is intelligent, resilient, and has a caring partner, portrayed by Joel Fry. The film opens with a darkly humorous twist as her water breaks during a heavy rainstorm that quickly turns into a disaster. Despite giving birth in a chaotic hospital and navigating through chaotic streets, she remains composed. This is because having a baby for the first time is such a transformative event that she barely registers the chaos around her.
Fry’s new father figure is affable and relaxed, suggesting comical names like Noah and Bob for their water-born baby. However, in a state of strange emptiness and a sense of being at their wit’s end, they settle on the name “Zeb”. The couple visit Fry’s parents (played by Mark Strong and Nina Sosanya) who reside in the rural area with a supply of food. As their stockpile dwindles, they are forced to venture into the chaotic and lawless countryside to find government shelters that are under attack by desperate and violent mobs. Comer must face a solitary struggle to survive with her infant.
This movie is a combination of a road trip and a quest, featuring exceptional performances from Katherine Waterston, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Gina McKee. These performances elevate the intelligence of the film, although I had some doubts about the nostalgic flashbacks that reveal the start of the main character’s romance with her partner. Comer portrays vulnerability and idealism with authenticity, as well as determination and a hint of ruthlessness – for a brief moment, she becomes one of the intimidating individuals one might encounter on the road, without any remorse afterwards. She carries the film with effortless strength and a unique sense of style.