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Leave the World Behind’ downplays the end of the world

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The movie Leave the World Behind, currently showing in theatres, gets off to a good start when Julia Roberts, America’s sweetheart, declares, “I hate people,” even before the title appears. Sadly, misanthropy can only take the film so far before it becomes stale

For her husband Clay (Ethan Hawke) and their children Archie (Charlie Evans) and Rose (Farrah Mackenzie), Amanda (Roberts) organises an impromptu beach getaway. The first night, G.H. (Mahershala Ali), the owner of their property, arrives with his daughter Ruth (Myha’la).

G.H. says New York City blacked out so he thought his beach house would be safest. Internet, cell phone and television outages make it impossible for Amanda and Clay to corroborate.

The setup initially asks questions about how people treat each other in uncomfortable situations. The owner of the rental home showing up reveals how Clay assumes the best and Amanda is suspicious.

However, the fact that there is a crisis at all is not a surprise. The film’s main question, which is based on Rumaan Alam’s novel, is how would people behave towards one another in a true emergency?

Many great movies have depicted catastrophes through the prism of a few individuals. In those stories, it’s usually the in-fighting that becomes a greater threat than the zombies or marauders outside.

These characters are drawn a little too one dimensionally for those dynamics to feel real. The film also never goes deeper than observing that any two people have different conflict resolution strategies.

Leave the World Behind will stream on Netflix Dec. 8.

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