Review: Us Against the End

Written and directed by Noah Alexzander, while Gabby and Brandon struggle to survive in a landscape of death and destruction, but when left with nothing but each other, can they stay together?. Starring: Lara Heller and Deric Augustine.

Relationships are difficult on their own, so when you add addiction, a post-apocalyptic world and the constant threat of death into the mix, you would forgive anyone for not holding onto a healthy connection. The story operates in a world of: when it’s easier to give up, why do you keep going? It’s an extremely valid question. In all these dystopian or devastated worlds of cinema, not a lot of them recognise that a lot of people would probably just call it quits or medicate themselves into oblivion. In some ways Us Against the End acknowledges that quandary but in other ways it’s solely an intensified exploration of relationships, compromise and creating a balance between selfish and selfless to make things work.

In that sense, the film is of varied success because leaning towards being a story of relationships, makes the drastic landscape and effects feel superfluous. While they do work to up the tension and give that story a way to skip to the core of its themes, they also then take away from it by becoming distracting. Part of that being because you’ll never learn exactly what they’re afraid of, how they got to that point and a few other elements of context which feel necessary to flesh out that side of the story. However, they did make the good choice to never truly reveal the threat as it would have further taken away from the story. It’s a classic mistake of cinema to overtly show your monster, villain or the like, making that threat lessened rather than letting your audience’s imagination do the work for you.

The filmmakers also made a great decision on the setting, a desert landscape is a superb choice for building a post-apocalyptic story. It makes for some atmospheric shots and very quickly builds the isolation and devastation. However, when it comes to setting an emotional tone, the film does struggle. The performances from Lara Heller and Deric Augustine are solid, they have a good chemistry and they portray the struggle in that relationship well, but when the call comes to push the intensity, it doesn’t quite work. The tone they’re setting feels slightly more suited to a less harsh environment. They bring a certain sweetness to the film’s latter scenes which may have been better served by leaning deeper towards drama and letting the sci-fi fade into the background.

Us Against the End takes a look at survival through the eyes of a struggling couple, asking the question of when the world can’t hold itself together, is it worth just giving up and going your separate ways?. It’s a nice change to see a messier lifestyle and choices for people living in a post-apocalyptic world, when most films and television shows make people seem a lot more well adjusted than is realistic. However, the sci-fi elements feel like a distraction from the drama, they’re not adding enough to the story to give them true purpose. There’s some good bones but things needed to be fleshed out to really see this one through and allow its emotional side to hit harder.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10

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