A married couple (Joseph Buttler and Mary Mackey) wakes up one morning to find the world outside their window to be empty and gray, due to the now missing sun. No explanation, just buildings in the neighborhood and little else. At a loss for what happened, or how it should be handled, the husband does what he normally does, and prepares to head out for work. A neighbor greets him, not surprisingly acting strange and wanting to borrow an electric drill, just not right now. Despite the odd behavior from his neighbor, the husband heads on and finds himself at work surrounded by his co-workers. They apparently felt the need to handle the end of the world the same way he did, by going to work like any other day. But why are they acting like he’s the odd one for coming to work?
Matthew B. Wolff’s short film The Way the World Ends is a surprisingly emotional experience wrapped in a very dry, straightforward, though somewhat mysterious, narrative. Like the husband, the audience is just presented the strangeness of the situation and expected to move forward. No hysteria or insanity, just a gradual realization of what’s going on in this somewhat playfully, yet altogether dreary, imagining of the end of the world. It’s almost whimsical in its portrayal.
Despite that whimsy and dry sense of humor, however, there’s a substantial heart and soul at the core of this film. By the time the short gets around to explaining how the world ended, and thus illuminating the audience on everyone’s odd behavior, the impact is that much more powerful. Suddenly, it all does make sense, and not in some otherworldly, science fiction sort of way.
The Way the World Ends is a wonderful short film experience. It manages to keep the audience not just engaged, but actively concerned about what exactly is going on, almost like we’re the detectives brought in to solve the mystery. And while it has that attention, it delivers an emotional payoff that is as powerful as it is unexpected.
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