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22nd Dec 2023

Leave the World Behind’s ending explained, as Netflix viewers divided

Nina McLaughlin

‘It’s not that kind of story’

The man behind apocalyptic disaster story Leave the World Behind has explained the film’s ending after some viewers labelled it ‘stupid.’

The acclaimed 2020 apocalyptic novel by Rumaan Alam has been turned into a film for Netflix and was released on the platform earlier this month. The movie and features an ace ensemble cast of Ethan Hawke, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Mahershala Ali and Myha’la, and Alam was an executive producer on the project.

The plot synopsis reads: “Amanda (Roberts) and her husband Clay (Hawke) rent a luxurious home for the weekend with their kids, Archie (Charlie Evans) and Rose (Farrah Mackenzie). Their vacation is soon upended when two strangers — G.H. (Ali) and his daughter Ruth (Myha’la) — arrive in the night, bearing news of a mysterious cyberattack and seeking refuge in the house they claim is theirs.

“The two families reckon with a looming disaster that grows more terrifying by the minute, forcing everyone to come to terms with their places in a collapsing world.”

Leave the World Behind leaves viewers split

Whilst the movie has so far received largely positive reviews, the ending has proved divisive for some.

One of the main themes of Leave the World Behind is our reliance on technology and gadgets, and Rose in particular is left fuming when she discovers their accommodation has no internet connection. She has been bingeing Friends but the lack of connectivity means she can’t finish watch the final.

As the world around them collapses into Armageddon and cities are bombed, the family have to find a way to survive.

Eventually they seek refuge in a bunker in a random house as an Emergency Alert System interceptor reveals that the US is at war with rogue armed forces and radiation weapons are involved.

As this warning plays out, Rose finds a DVD of the last series of Friends, and watches the finale. And as the iconic Friends theme kicks in, the credits roll on the film.

The sudden and open ending left plenty of viewers pretty annoyed, with one person writing that it was a “very stupid ending.” Someone else said: “No, why did the Leave World Behind end like that?”

Another wrote: “That Leave The World Behind movie sucked cuz wtf was that ending.” A fourth penned: “I just finished Leave the World Behind, the ending has pissed me off.”

Alam has since come out and defended the ending though, explaining that the whole point was that the story couldn’t be wrapped up in a neat way because, funnily enough, that’s not what tends to happen with apocalypses and global-scale conflicts.

When asked why he chose to finish the story without giving the audience closure on the fate of the characters, Alam told Variety: “Wouldn’t that be so dissatisfying? It’s a film that respects you as a viewer enough to not provide that.

“In that final scene between Julia and Myha’la, they don’t embrace. Even prior to that, when they’re in that little shed and come to a détente, Ruth acknowledges that there’s some truth to the things that Amanda has said, that they’re in agreement about something, but it doesn’t end with a hug.

“It’s not that kind of story. I have no problem with like a big disaster movie that saves the six or eight principals and reunites them in the aftermath of a disaster and allows you to be like, ‘Well, everything’s gonna be okay.’

“I just don’t think this is that kind of film.”

Plenty of people defended the ending on social media as well.

One person wrote: “The fact that everyone is upset about that ending from the movie Leave The World Behind instead of actually LISTENING to what might possibly happening in our future as a reality is the real disappointment here.”

A second shared: “People complaining about ‘Leave the World Behind’ ending just missed the entire point and message of the movie.”

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