Leave the World Review: Julia Roberts stars in Netflix thriller

When the end of the world comes, will we know what it will be? on Leave the World, the charming and stylish new Netflix thriller directed by Sam Esmail and based on the 2020 novel by Rumaan Alam, the apocalypse is clearly here. What makes it so scary is that no one really knows what it involves.

The majority of Leave the World consists of a short weekend in a sleepy Long Island hamlet, far from the rest of civilization. Yuppie white Brooklynites Amanda (Julia Roberts) and Clay (Ethan Hawke) rent a vacation home for the weekend, bringing their crazy daughter and Friends– obsessed daughter. In the middle of the night, they heard a knock at the door. GH (Mahershala Ali) and snarky Ruth (Myha’la), a Black father and daughter in fancy formal wear, arrive.

GH owns the house Amanda and Clay live in, she explained. He is in New York, but something terrible and mysterious is happening in the city. There is a blackout; the internet is gone; no phones; Every TV station played the emergency broadcast signal. Now GH wants to take shelter in his vacation home with his daughter. Can Clay and Amanda figure it out?

Brittle, racist Amanda thinks too much, though good-natured Clay is willing to go along with the plan after GH offers to pay them back $1,000 from their vacation rental. But as the families arrange themselves in an uneasy standoff, it becomes terrifyingly clear that something strange is going on. Navigational machinery in cars, boats, and airplanes all seem to be malfunctioning. Animals act hypnotized. The air rents with strange noises. Despite the absence of the internet, it is impossible for anyone to know what any of these strange events mean. They seem trapped, helplessly, in a premodern moment.

Without any clear information, the apocalypse forms the strongest fear of each character. Amanda blames the mysterious Blacks. Clay is horrified to find himself in a situation that reveals he is not the good liberal he had hoped for. GH is afraid of a situation where he doesn’t know how to speak for himself.

Esmail, who got his chops as a showrunner on mr. Robot, is a master at unleashing the paranoia of his characters. His characters always seem to find themselves placed very symmetrically within the camera’s frame, so that their movements take on an eerie, predetermined quality: Someone knows that’s where they’ll end up. But who?

Eerily accurate, too, is their language. In Esmail’s script, everyone’s voice is raised, artificial, literary. The results are not always kind to Roberts, whose greatest strength as an actress is her magnetic physical presence: as Amanda, she feels trapped behind a wall of words for most of the film. Ali, however, makes a meal out of Esmail’s words as sober GH The movie is his from the moment he appears, pure in a tuxedo at 3 in the morning, his smile a little polite to be natural . You just know that debonair must be hiding something – but he keeps you guessing as to what it is.

Leave the World is based on Rumaan Alam’s 2020 novel of the same title, but the movie has different priorities than the book. Alam’s novel gets its satirical bite from the delightful invocation of bourgeois comforts: white linens in the bathroom and a copper pot filler in the kitchen. These are the comforts for which Alam’s characters despair, the niceties they use to distract themselves from their responsibilities until it’s too late and the world ends. They also seduce you, as you read, and their push and pull becomes the game of the book: Outside, the apocalypse may be raging, but inside, the two families are drinking good wine and spreading pasta with fresh herbs and garlic and expensive salted European butter.

Email has no feeling for that kind of elegance. He runs his camera on a perfunctory pan of the amenities of the beautiful home (a pool, a fire pit, a smart TV), but he is on a basic level very cold as a filmmaker. to enjoy the pleasures of touch like a perfect. tricked out kitchen. (Side note: A Nancy Meyers Leave the World should be something to see.)

Instead, Esmail’s characters are blinded by a different kind of bourgeois comfort food, one that focuses only on the film’s final, biting, and satisfying sequence. It’s a moment that feels aimed directly at the pieties of the streaming entertainment moment, like movies WandaVision forever assures us that bad TV serves as something fundamental to the human soul. In Esmail’s hands, the moment is so sharp that you can imagine seeing it in a Netflix original streaming.

Leave the World available in selected cinemas from November 22 and on Netflix from December 8.

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