When You Finish Saving the World is about human connectivity and how big personalities are interpreted through alternative perspectives. It checks out that these elements are featured in Jesse Eisenberg’s directorial debut, an Oscar nominated performer who seems to be attracted to these themes when reflecting on his previous work.
Eisenberg also wrote the screenplay, which is based on his audiobook of the same name. I’d be curious to find out if his storytelling through the audiobook is as pat as his filmmaking (the third act has some very convenient timing and resolutions). If not, that’s something I would like to see him work on with his next feature. Nevertheless, When You Finish Saving the World is a very good start to this new venture in his career.
The big personalities in Eisenberg’s story belong to Evelyn (Academy Award winner Julianne Moore) and Ziggy (Finn Wolfhard of Netflix’s Stranger Things), a mother and son who can’t (or refuse to) see eye-to-eye with each other. Evelyn, who some may describe as “emotionally disconnected”, is deeply focused on her work at a woman’s shelter while Ziggy, an aspiring musician, continues to build his online following by reaching out to other teens through his music. They both could improve on being humble, but they’re too busy stepping on each other’s achievements. They don’t hate each other, they’re just self-centred. They’re similarly blinded to how they react, but they receive reality checks when Evelyn is persistent about the potential she sees in a teenager at the shelter (Kyle played by Billy Bryk) , and Ziggy tries to improve his “political opinion” to impress a girl (Lila played by Alisha Boe) at his school.
When You Finish Saving the World is insightful about human behaviour, but it’s also genuinely funny. Moore and Wolfhard garner some laughs as they swipe at each other, and are able to transition those remarks to deeper habits that reveal just how hurtful they can be. On their own, they exhibit strong character work that either makes us amusingly cringe at them or persuades us to encourage their growth; also proving that Eisenberg is able to direct his peers very well.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie