The Austin Chronicle

SXSW Film Review: The End of Us

By Shane Pfender, March 18, 2021, 9:06am, Picture in Picture

You might justly believe that you aren’t quite ready to watch a movie about life in quarantine. Seeing as we're still in lockdown, Covid-era movies feel a bit too soon. It touches on a similar feeling produced by those billboards that, in the midst of a national tragedy, broadcast empty phrases like “Hang in there [your city here], you got this!”

SXSW 2021 selection The End of Us attempts to document a failed relationship at its low point, just as the lockdown is announced. The filmmakers aim to strike a balance between being a relationship comedy and a topical film about the beginning of the pandemic. The story centers around Nick and Leah, a couple who breaks up in March 2020, at the very beginning of a nationwide quarantine.

For filmmakers Henry Loevner and Steven Kanter, quarantine serves as a structural tool to reveal a new side of a relationship, one that has reached its agreed upon end and is forced to continue. The most remarkable parts of the film occur in an undefined space of not being lovers, not being friends, and in a purgatory where physical and emotional boundaries are being redefined. This stage of love is characterized by subtle changes in tone of voice and demeanor, we witness the slowly building contradiction of transforming oneself when there is nowhere to go.

The film was shot over a few months where the entire cast lived in an Airbnb that acted as the set for the feature. The chemistry created by this arrangement is instantly recognizable. The leads, Ben Coleman and Ali Vingiano, have a genuine spark that colors all of their shared scenes, making the prolonged end of their relationship palpably sad.

The film sets up for itself the difficult task of relating the larger pandemic to its heartfelt core story. It suffers from delving too deep into two Covid-specific montages, and may have made more use of its runtime sticking to the emotional drama at the films core.

For its flaws, The End of Us is surprising evidence of how societal lockdown can create a favorable environment for inventive collaborative filmmaking.

The End of Us

Narrative Feature Competition

World Premiere

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