The End of the F*****g World review: This Netflix show is a brutally risqué comedy on modern families

Mihir Fadnavis

Jan,10 2018 15:55 17 IST

4/5

When it comes to the ‘couple on the run with a crime on their hands’ sub-genre of films – one generally sees two kinds of movies. Either a fun homage to 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde with both comedy and drama, or a lame wannabe version of Bonnie and Clyde.

So it’s a breath of fresh air when the fittingly titled Netflix show The End of the F*****g World turns out to be a highly original, jet black, brutally risqué comedy with a dash of teenage angst and social commentary on modern suburban soulless families.

The show is based on Charles Foreman’s comic book of the same name, and the execution is something akin to Wes Anderson meets Ben Wheatley. You get the beautifully framed shots with colors that pop out and characters directly (often sardonically) communicating to the audience, and also unexpected situations that require at least a few blood splatters and possibly grizzly murders to boot.

The End of the F***ing World

A still from The End of the F***ing World

There’s hardly any time wasted – we’re immediately introduced to our hero James (Alex Lawther) who is quite convinced that he’s a psychopath, and that he kind of enjoys hurting animals and the prospect of ending someone’s life could be his ultimate salvation. A girl in his school named Alyssa (Jessica Barden) seems to have a crush on him, because she also shares some of his weird proclivities. Naturally the two become a match made in hell and somehow end up on a road trip, leaving a trail of destruction behind them.

What sets this apart from other road trip, dark comedies is the rendering a heartwarming romance between two people in urgent need of therapy. James and Alyssa could grow up to become Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, but they are fundamentally two kids in need of a hug.

The show does indulge in painting subjects in black and white but it does not take away from the real world societal issues that millennials face every day in a frustratingly cold and distant world. Even though the story is set in England, creator Jonathan Entwistle cleverly sets the major story beats in locations that are ubiquitous and not necessarily UK centric, making it relatable to anyone in any part of the world.

A lot of the visuals and accompanying music in the third act are in fact very American, and there is even a meta line of dialogue where Alyssa compares their situation to an American film.

What works best is how writer Charlie Covell treats both protagonists as children and not adults in children’s bodies – many other films fall into this trap because the children become the writer’s mouthpieces and impossibly adult thinking rather than real kids. James and Alyssa are mature for their age because they faced some setbacks in life, but every dark and messed up thing they do has consequences and neither have any idea how to deal with it. At one point Alyssa closes her eyes and mutters she’s trying to think how an adult would handle the situation they’re in.

More importantly, the people they meet in their crime filled road trip cover the entire continuum of humans: from creepy car drivers to dumb gas station owners to a benevolent security guard – it gives them a journey from different perspectives. It’s worth pondering over if it is indeed the right thing to be a nihilist isolated grouch because the world is just full of shit, or it’s just a matter of looking in the right direction and take the right opportunities.

On the other hand, the two aren’t special in any way because everyone else has a chip on the shoulder, and your soul is basically a serial killer ready to pop up at any moment.

It seems like Lawther is the go to actor for brilliantly playing f****d up teenagers – he was also the central character in the Black Mirror episode ‘Shut up and Dance’. Barden is downright amazing and extremely empathetic – it was also clever casting because she isn’t beautiful in the perfume commercial sort of way but in a real, relatable manner.

The show underlines this fact when a shallow character describes her as average looking but striking because she’s always angry. And because both James and Alyssa’s mobile phones have been broken to bits, the lack of digital distractions makes their journey feel very attached to the world they are in, and even to us watching their relationship unfold.

There is one other interesting aspect to this show – even though it’s Netflix binge content, there are only eight episodes, with each episode being just 20 minutes long instead of the ‘epic scope’ of 10 or 15 one hour long episodes we’re generally used to. By the time we get to the third episode it becomes clear that this was the appropriate runtime to keep the setup from running thin, and even if binged the entire show only feels like one snappy film. The finale makes it unclear whether we’ll get another season but with filmmaking quality this high they should be a follow up with more of James and Alyssa, whether or not we deserve them.

The End Of The F*****g World is now streaming on Netflix India

Published Date: Jan 10, 2018 15:55 PM | Updated Date: Jan 10, 2018 15:55 PM