The Total Buy In

Note: Spoiler Alert 

One Saturday night a while back my family and I rented Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (In an eerie coincidence, we were ten minutes into the movie when an earthquake measuring 7.7 hit a few hours north of us. Luckily there was no damage and I didn’t find out until later about it or the tsunami advisory so my movie watching went on uninterrupted).

And I’m glad because this movie captivated me. Set in the near future, the premise is simple. An asteroid named ‘Matilda’ is on a collision course with Earth. In three weeks, the world will come to an absolute end. What will people do in the time they have left?

I love big question stuff. I also love black humor, a ticking clock, a dog (big thumbs up on that) and love. This movie had all of that. It wasn’t a romantic comedy, but it was both funny and it was romantic. The pairing of leads Steve Carell with Keira Knightley was admittedly odd. Some reviewers didn’t like it. I did.

They are neighbors who are thrown together after the countdown to Matilda begins. With transportation in chaos and their apartment building trashed by looters, they take off on a road trip. Carell wants to find a girl from his past and Knightley is anxious to reunite with her family. The relationship develops from there.

Admittedly, there were some things I didn’t love. A few issues were glossed over, and there were a few unanswered questions too. Though, come to think of it, there probably will be an unanswered question or two at the end of the world.

The thing is, though, when the end came in this movie and for these two characters, I was devastated. So much so that my jaw hit my chest and I turned to my family and said, “They die?

The Martian laughed. “What did you expect?”
Teen Freud rolled his eyes. “Yeah, it’s not called Seeking a Friend for a Near But Averted Catastrophe.”

They were right. I knew that. I knew too that I hadn’t been misled by anything in the film. Not really. Oh, sure, there were those few unanswered questions and maybe a hint that life might go on, but realistically I’d gotten what I’d signed up for.

Except I’d done a total buy in. I’d been totally, 100% hooked by the characters. I was invested in their lives, their dreams, their love. When the end came I wanted them to live on.

And, really, isn’t that what we try for as writers? To hook the reader? To get them to do a total buy in? To root for our characters so completely that when the end comes they may not be left wanting more but at the very least they think there is more. They truly believe in their heart of hearts that the end of that particular story is the beginning of a new story for those characters. And that includes characters being hit full force by the asteroid Matilda.


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