Julia Roberts Grapples With The Apocalypse


At the door: the tuxedo-clad G.H. Scott (Mahershala Ali) and his daughter Ruth (Myha’la). As G.H. explains, this is actually his house that the Sandfords are renting. Why is he there? Because there’s a blackout in the city, and he figured it would be easier to come home rather than head into Manhattan. Amanda is instantly suspicious of this pair of Black people at the door, and the racist implications are immediately noticeable. “This is your house?” she asks incredulously, looking the duo over. Roberts rose to fame becoming America’s sweetheart, but “Leave the World Behind” gives her the chance to play a rare unlikable character. She wants to see some I.D., and wouldn’t you know it, G.H. doesn’t have any on him, nor are there any photos of himself or his family on the walls of the house. It seems highly likely that he’s telling the truth, and yet Amanda remains cold and unconvinced.

Despite Amanda’s racially motivated misgivings, the Scotts enter the home. This is followed by an emergency broadcast message suddenly appearing on every TV station, seemingly confirming that something is going on. And then things get really weird. This gives Esmail the opportunity to stage several large, disturbing set pieces, including a memorable moment where several self-driving Teslas crash and clog up the only road out of town. 

Just what is happening here? Is it a terrorist attack? Are hackers involved? Is there something supernatural afoot? And does G.H. know more than he’s letting on? It’s all very mysterious and deliberately vague. Things grow increasingly tense, and yet there’s a kind of dark comedy at play (the film more or less ends on a punchline). All of this coalesces into a disarmingly odd tone that both intrigues and alienates. It’s not that the film is hard to figure out, nor is it obtuse. But there’s a quirky distance that keeps you at arm’s length. 

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