Goodbye World (2013)

goodbye world

Goodbye World

Director: Denis Hennelly

Writers: Denis Hennelly and Sarah Adina Smith

Recommended? Yes

Bechdel Test? I think fail, somewhat surprisingly

There ain’t no justice, just us.

That’s always been one of my favorite anarcho-cliches. And it’s one of the central themes of this low-key apocalypse romantic drama.

Yes, that’s right. It’s an apocalypse movie about thirty-something mostly-white all-hetero couple drama. And I kind of loved it.

For a long time I’ve been saying the problem with movies is they try to be like OMG it’s the biggest deal ever and everything is explosions! and so I’ve been advocating for a post-apoc rom-com. This isn’t very post the apocalypse and it’s not much com in its rom, but I still kind of feel like I got what I was hoping for.

The movie puts four men and four women, old college pals, in a hippy-ish tech yuppie’s dream home in the redwoods. And then all the technology goes bye-bye and maybe some terrorists destroyed all the tractor trailers, or enough to cause system-wide failure.

But I love, love, love how the movie isn’t about that. It’s about stopping people from taking power on a local scale, about learning to get your head out of your ass and help the people around you, about learning what an animal-liberationist convicted arsonist has in common with a christian libertarian.

Which is to say, one of the eight characters is an outspoken felon who starts off the movie by telling a class of students that the system can’t be changed from within. He lives in a small, beautiful guest house in the forest and has a “no justice, just us” poster on his wall with a masked figure holding bolt cutters.

The characters can be a little one- and two-dimensional, and some of the acting (or is it the writing?) comes off a bit flat, but by the end I really care about these people, even the ones I should probably hate.

Everyone trying to take power in this film is a bad guy, from the government to the biker gangs, but I’m also impressed how those trying to cling to the power they have through their material possessions are dealt with. And I like how un-gung-ho our band of heroes is while still getting a lot done.

The race stuff in the movie is pretty bad. Only one non-white person in the whole thing and he’s the suspected terrorist. It almost addresses class here and there throughout, though mostly sidesteps some of the more interesting questions. Gender, well, there’re strong women but there’s also a sort of cliche succubus. One character, the political aide, does a decent job (in my ignorant/male opinion) of showing the ways that women who interact with patriarchal power structures end up sexualized and deal with it as well as they can. Another character lays it out to an ex why yes, it’s okay to just be friends and still love one another, how the friend zone is not a demotion.

I’m fascinated by the animal liberationist character. I want him to be more of an anarchist, but instead he’s just, well, someone who hates the suffering of animals and decided to go for it years ago and burn down a factory farm under construction. His politics are played sincerely (as are other characters’, including the libertarian, to the filmmakers’ credit) and he’s a rather believable character (if a little bit oversimplified, like the rest of the cast).

But where the movie shines for me is the core conceit, which is: gee, wouldn’t it be kinda nice in some ways if civilization just went away? Wouldn’t we rather know our neighbors and grow food together and not feel like the government is breathing down our necks?

Maybe I’m the wrong critic for this website, though. If I enjoy a movie, maybe I’m just looking for what they do right instead of what they do wrong. But since I’m going to watch movies, at least until the end of civilization, it’s interesting to see what they manage to pull off. And I have the feeling this filmmaker was sincere in trying to tell a good story with believable characters with a loving, pro-people but anti-the-system premise.

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