AFI FILM FEST 2023 REVIEW! Mahalia Belo’s adaptation of Megan Hunter’s The End We Start From deserves praise for a multitude of reasons. It’s an edge-of-your-seat apocalyptic drama. It’s an allegory about the post-partum plight of a mother. It’s a delicate examination of what “home” truly means. But at its heart, the film serves as a powerful ode to women, their resilience and camaraderie in times of danger. Not bad for a succinct, 100-minute narrative that also happens to be expertly shot, acted, and scored.
Staying true to Hunter’s story, Belo, along with screenwriter Alice Birch, keep their characters’ names to one letter. Except for the lead, that is. When a devastating flood engulfs her London home, Mother (Jodie Comer) gives birth in the most dire of circumstances. The city is falling apart around her. Luckily, her son, Z (pronounced “Zed”), survives. Mother’s husband, R (Joel Fry), drives them to his parents’ (Mark Strong and Nina Sosanya) cabin in the woods. Things seem to stabilize for a little while – until a series of tragedies occur, and then R begins to fall apart.
“…gives birth in the most dire of circumstances…”
Minor spoilers follow. Our protagonists can’t stay in the cabin anymore due to the lack of food and the increased danger of psychos breaking in. The traumatized R abandons his wife and child, claiming he can’t protect them. Mother meets O (Katherine Waterston), another first-time mom, at a shelter. The women form a bond and help each other out. A series of devastating events – including encountering a decent, albeit broken, man (Benedict Cumberbatch) – leads the young women to an island with a safe commune. Yet home calls out to Mother.
As a father of two myself, I can testify that the film does a terrific job of drawing parallels between the cataclysm of a flood and that of post-partum agony. Of course, I’m not a woman, but I was there by my wife’s side through it all, twice, and it really is a powerful, terrifying, overwhelming, wearying experience that comes at you like a flood. Only a woman could go through it all, from carrying a child to birthing it to feeding and taking care of it. Most men would buckle, like R.
"…blend of despondency and lyricism, hope and despair, beauty and violence..."