SXSW: The End of Us takes a mostly light-hearted approach to COVID-19 and Quarantine

More happened in 2020 than this breakup comedy addresses. 
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Nick and Leah argue the merits of wearing a mask on a jog. // Photo by Henry Loevner, Steven Kanter

Perhaps there will come a time when “too soon” no longer applies to stories about COVID-19, but it’s not today. The End of Us is the second dramatized COVID-19 film I’ve seen in three months after Songbird released in December. While The End of Us steers away from the offensive nature of Songbird, the film’s limited scope means it misses some key elements that contributed to the trauma of last year. 

Just before lockdown happens, Leah (Ali Vingiano) and Nick (Ben Coleman) break up. With rumblings of a lockdown on the horizon in Los Angeles and ever-increasing COVID-19 cases, Nick has nowhere to go, so the exes buckle down and try to create boundaries in their small LA apartment. Coleman and Vingiano have great chemistry and for that reason, The End of Us works as a watchable break-up comedy. 

The film takes place from March through the end of May, 2020. Just like in real life, the rumblings of COVID-19 cases start small, until lockdown is suddenly upon Leah and Nick. Work from home begins, people are let go, and connections with friends and family move to Zoom calls and FaceTime. Leah and Nick read all the same news headlines we did. They go through the same cleaning routines, social distance meetups with friends and weird quarantine hobbies that became trends. It’s all very recognizable. In these aspects, The End of Us does pretty well. 

However, the things it doesn’t touch on are even more glaring. The End of Us concludes just before Black Lives Matter protests started happening. The virus and the fight for racial justice is an important intersection of the events from 2020. Perhaps it’s outside of the film’s scope, and with two white leads, it wasn’t going to offer much introspection. However, the film has still been released in a post-2020 world, where those events did occur. It’s hard not to take notice of what’s missing.Last year was a lot. This year is still a lot. We’re continuing to recover from a lot of hurt over the past 12 months. There are so many different experiences people went through that The End of Us fails to consider. Instead, it offers a pretty bland look at a traumatic experience the entire world went through, and doesn’t really have a lot to offer in terms of a resolution or reflection on those events.

Categories: Culture