When You Finish Saving The World
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Director: Jesse Eisenberg
Cast: Julianne Moore, Finn Wolfhard, Billy Byrk, Jay O. Sanders, Alisha Boe
Runtime: 88 minutes
Release date: TBA
Navigating a complex mother-son relationship that is on the rocks, Jesse Eisenberg’s directorial debut features a standout performance from Julianne Moore as an overbearing, claustrophobic mom and Finn Wolfhard as an online sensation writing god-awful songs.
Evelyn (Julianne Moore) craves a connection with her son, Ziggy (Finn Wolfhard), but that connection is too far gone. Her solution: achieve a similar connection through a boy his age at the shelter where she works. His solution: befriend a group of political teenagers and get woke.
There was a lot of star power involved in the making of this movie. Written and directed by Jesse Eisenberg (you just might have heard of him from The Social Network, Zombieland, or Now You See Me), the producers include Emma Stone (yeah, that one) and Julianne Moore (also starring in the film).
It draws up some interesting threads stemming from our two main characters, but the story falls a little flat. Ideas that feel really interesting at first pan out to predictability and end up being somewhat boring.
These two unlikeable characters are so cringy and so hard to get on the same page with, but that isn’t what creates the tension with the audience. There wasn’t a deep enough emotional connection established with these characters to have me feeling entirely motivated for each one to change. I also think there needs to be a secondhand embarrassment warning prior to the film because you’ll definitely be feeling that contagious energy at times when Moore’s character or Wolfhard’s characters are interacting with their counterparts.
Ziggy is an awkward teenager who has had success online singing his self-written songs on a livestream platform called HiHat for his 20,000+ adoring followers around the globe. This gives him a self-centered and privileged point of view that he challenges later on in the film. His stiffness makes the character what he is, and I think the subtle satire is effective without feeling line an SNL skit. It’s really self-aware and knows what it wants to say at times, if not all the time, and I think that makes Eisenberg an actor-turned-writer-director to watch for his next projects.
The score of this film is more than deserving a mention. Composed by Emile Mosseri (who has recently composed for Minari, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and Kajillioniare), its sharp sounds and cacophonous melodies up the tension in certain parts while stretching out the feelings of confusion and awkwardness. Following suit with its A24 predecessors, When You Finish Saving the World also has an incredible color palette with that crispy quality we’re accustomed to with indie filmmaking such as this.
All of these storylines start of pretty promising but end up getting lost in a storm of other storylines. Part of me wonders if this would’ve been better suited as an HBO limited series or something more long-form to give its thoughts a chance to breathe. I kept waiting for things to come together and head in a particular direction, and it just didn’t do that. This screenplay has promise, but it didn’t deliver on that part.
This is very much a character-driven film, having the audience take a look in the mirror to see not only how Gen Z and older generations have conflicting opinions about one another, but also how parents and their children’s bickering can have deeper roots.
When You Finish Saving The World screened during the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. It will be distributed by A24 with a release date TBA.