Saturday 9 December 2023

Movie Review: Leave The World Behind (2023)

Genre: Survival Drama
Director: Sam Esmail
Starring: Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke, Kevin Bacon
Running Time: 141 minutes

Synopsis: Stressed out New Jersey couple Amanda and Clay (Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke) book a family weekend getaway at a secluded Long Island house-for-rent. A day at the beach with their kids Rose and Archie is interrupted by an out-of-control oil tanker, then the internet and television signals mysteriously fail. In the middle of the night, the tuxedoed G.H. (George) Scott (Mahershala Ali) and his daughter Ruth (Myha'la) knock at the door, with George claiming to be the home owner, as evidence mounts of strange events occurring at a large scale.

What Works Well: The adaptation of Rumaan Alam's book (and a good companion piece to 2015's Into The Forest) slowly but surely builds sinister momentum at personal and global levels. From the racial tension of two unknown blacks intruding late at night onto a white family's perceived sanctuary, to broader societal cracks giving way under external pressure, director and writer Sam Esmail constructs a portrait of psychological and physical fragility. A tick, a drone, a vague but persistent emergency signal, and a piercing sonic assault are joined by larger catastrophes - beware the driverless Teslas! - to signal the end and the beginning. Esmail's directing is full of top-down flourish, and while Julia Roberts and Mahershala Ali never need to stretch, they do add the necessary intellectual and psychological touches.

What Does Not Work As Well: Without demystifying the premise, the long running time should have accommodated sharper event interpretations. The metaphysical involvement of animals (primarily deer and flamingos) is only tangentially resolved, and some character actions (a kid setting off alone into a strange house) and event resolutions (just take those blue pills for a seemingly horrifying ailment) stretch credibility.

Conclusion: Weekend getaways may just be gateways to much heightened anxiety.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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