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Leave the World Behind (2023) - Movie Review

Leave the world behind poster

When I write a film post I usually like to do it within 24/48 hours of watching the movie. That way everything’s still fresh in my mind and I’m usually full of things to say about it.

Sometimes though (and it doesn’t happen very often) I won’t feel immediately compelled to write a post because I’m left feeling uncertain about my feelings. In these cases it’s often worth letting everything digest before forming a hasty opinion that might change shortly after.

With that in mind, a while back I watched a movie on Netflix that at the time was fairly new and that I’d seen promotion for on social media but otherwise knew nothing else about.

Leave the World Behind (2023)

If you haven’t seen it, it’s an apocalyptic drama/mystery/thriller starring Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman), Ethan Hawke (Training Day), Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Myha'la (Industry) and Kevin Bacon (Tremors) among others.

It’s based on the 2020 novel of the same name by Rumaan Alam.

This is what it’s about according to the internet:

“A family's getaway to a luxurious rental home takes an ominous turn when a cyberattack knocks out their devices, and two strangers appear at their door.”

Since watching this film I’ve spoken to a few friends of mine who’ve seen it, as well as reading posts and comments on social media from people I’ve never met. It seems the general consensus is that it’s disappointing (or in some cases, sh#t).

I can see why people would say that, but I wanted to write this post to offer a counter argument and to point out some of its good features.

Personally I enjoyed it. No, it’s not a film that’ll blow your socks off, but it is one that makes you think about it long after it’s finished - and like I’ve said many times before, that’s often the sign of a good film in my opinion.

Unfortunately, with these “end-of-the-world type films” we’ve become so accustomed to “big” that anything less tends to leave us feeling disappointed. This movie isn’t about explosions or the kinds of things we’re so used to seeing in apocalyptic-style films. It’s about paranoia, a fear of the unknown, race/culture divides, and our increasing reliance on technology. And I might be wrong but I think that’s part of the reason some people didn’t enjoy it.

I actually found the story really compelling, and although the pace is slow I never at any point got bored or felt like turning it off. The mystery of the whole situation kept me watching right up to the end…and we’ll get to that in a minute…

I also liked the way the film is split into chapters. It’s quite a long movie at 2 hours 18 minutes, so breaking it up like that makes it feel episodic with everything kind of resetting with each new chapter.

The slow building tension and the performances from the cast (who I thought were a really interesting mix) are what makes this film worth watching above all else. They all work so well together and Julia Roberts (who plays a bit of a b#tch), and Mahershala Ali (who I’ve been a big fan of since watching Green Book) are undoubtedly the two standouts.

On a slightly technical/geeky note I also really liked the unusual inverted camera angles and the use of unsettling music over scenes that seemed idyllic. The two things are at total odds with each other but that just helps to set the ominous tone of what’s to come.

Unfortunately, “what’s to come” takes quite a while to arrive, and therein lies what I believe to be another big problem for the people who didn’t like this film. Don’t get me wrong, if a story’s compelling enough I’ll stick with it (as I did with this) but I do get that there’s only so much carrot dangling some people will take, and this film does a lot of dangling.

When things do start to unfold and we finally begin to get an idea of what’s going on, we’re robbed of the kind of ending we think we deserve and are presented with a black screen followed by the end credits. Usually I’d put up a “SPOILER ALERT” before divulging such information, but I feel like if you’re going to give up over two hours of your life watching this film you should at least be given a heads up as to whether or not you’re going to be rewarded for your service.

All in all though I enjoyed it. It has some great scenes that go a long way to build the intrigue, but it also sadly leaves quite a few questions unanswered. The ending, as I said isn’t the most satisfying, but having mulled it over for quite a while now I’ve come to the conclusion that unless they intended to set the film up for a sequel there weren’t a whole lot of alternatives, at least none that would’ve done the film justice.

For once this isn’t an end of the world movie where aliens or a hastily approaching asteroid are the villain, it’s a bit more thought provoking than that, and for that I give it credit. Whether or not audiences would’ve preferred aliens or an approaching asteroid I can’t say. I just know I enjoyed it for what it is - even with the unanswered questions and the slightly lacklustre ending.

Would I watch it again? Yes, I think I would. Are there better movies like this out there? Of course, but for the slightly different take on a done-to-death genre and for the performances by a great cast I’d recommend giving it a watch none-the-less.

What do you think? Have you seen Leave the World Behind? Did you like it? Let me know in the comments.


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