Sundance 2021: 'How It Ends' Reminds Us to Be Kinder to Yourself
by Zofia Wijaszka
February 8, 2021
What would you do if you knew that the world was ending? Liza, played by Zoe Lister-Jones, sleeps in late, then eats the tallest stack of pancakes possible. For her last day on Earth, she decides to participate in her friend's farewell party. But first, Liza has a few tough conversations lying ahead. Lister-Jones, also the co-writer and co-director of How It Ends, perfectly captures Los Angeles' panorama while teaching us about the significance of loving yourself and dealing with past regrets. If you're asking about Liza, there's one weird, most incredible thing about her. No, it's not the fact that she invented an app and now lives in a large, modern house. It's that she is constantly in the presence of her younger self. Younger Liza, played by Cailee Spaeny, is a personification of conscience for the older Liza. She's there to listen to her and advise her. She's usually invisible, but the last day on Earth is exceptional because everyone can finally see her.
Before the biggest farewell party begins, Liza makes a list of amends for the people she fought with, loved, and hurt. And so both Lizas are walking around the hills of Los Angeles, meeting individuals from her life, but also people she doesn't know. The audience meets a strange man, Manny (Fred Armisen), Liza's father (Bradley Whitford), and her friend, Ala (Olivia Wilde), who's apparently a psychic and can see into the future. But don't let me spoil this part, you're in for a treat. As the main character takes us on her journey through the beautiful Los Angeles views and all of her relationships with people, we laugh and, at the same time, learn that Liza is a lost soul who thinks that she doesn't deserve love and care. Her encounters with her dad and her mom (Helen Hunt) give us insight into her personality and issues. But it's the ongoing conversations with younger Liza that lets us fully perceive her.
How It Ends has an excellent cast of weirdos, and I mean it in the best, most positive way possible. Through the film we get to see Olivia Wilde, Charlie Day, Whitney Cummings, even Finn Wolfhard. The many cameos are one of the best things about Lister-Jones' creation, shot entirely during the pandemic. The main duo made up of the director/actress and Cailee Spaeny, who was in Lister-Jones' other film, The Craft: Legacy, is something out of this world. From the first second, you can see that both women share an exceptional bond that adds an authentic feeling to their characters' relationship. Their conversation are witty, hilarious, and moving at times. They stroll the little streets of the Hollywood hills, engaging in ridiculous dialogue, while the audience has a chance to see the meteor slowly heading to Earth to end it all. As a viewer, you especially want to sit and listen to all of Liza's conversations while the younger version is there to listen.
At the same time, How It Ends reflects on something deeper. Lister-Jones' main character showcases how hard it is to struggle with past regrets, and then face them. That's essentially what Liza does in the film, except she deals with her issues all at once. Throughout the film, there is one key notion that Liza seems to live by: she doesn't deserve love and care, and she's completely and utterly lonely. Every time this thought is said out loud, the younger Liza gets more and more frustrated, which eventually leads to a very emotional discussion between the two.
"For me to count, you have to count!", the younger Liza exclaims. I felt this sentence and this particular dialogue on a personal level. Suddenly, we understand the reason for her childhood self. Spaeny's character is a conscience, yes, guilt, but the young girl is there for the older one to realize that she's worth every single thing in the world, just like everyone else. How It Ends really forces you to reflect on all the times you've been hard on yourself and thought you don't deserve to be loved or cared for. The exceptional and beautiful relationship between the two Lizas begs the question(s): Would you say these horrible things that you sometimes say to your younger self? Would you look at your sweet, innocent baby face and say that you deserve all the bad things that have happened or will happen to you?
This thought and this realization made me tear up while watching the film. I felt it deeply. Zoe Lister-Jones showcases this feeling creatively through filmmaking while taking us on a final adventure before the world ends. Her film is a mix of genres, upbeat, with modern music and some of the best cameos and a great duo of actresses in main roles. Yes, it's chaotic at times. Sometimes, it takes longer than it should to make a point, but in the aftermath, it's the meaning of How It Ends that linger in your mind long after watching.
Zofia's Sundance 2021 Rating: 4 out of 5
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