Sam Esmail is largely known as the creator of “Mr Robot,” which critiques the intoxicating trap of control and power in today’s world. Later on, through “Comet” and “Homecoming,” he continued to explore the subject of technology and its impact on our world – be it personal or institutional. His latest venture for Netflix is another frightening critique of our delusional bubble of safety and security. “Leave the World Behind” begins as a family drama and slowly turns into a scary survival thriller. Simultaneously it becomes a stimulating exercise to examine our place in the grand scheme of things.

The film combines the elements of science fiction with psychological thriller to explore its apocalyptic plotline. We get introduced to the Sandford family in New York through their sudden plan of a getaway trip. Amanda (Julia Roberts) decides, on a whim, to go on a vacation with her family to Long Island. She finds a surprisingly cheaper option than usual and thinks it to be a good plan to spend some time away from their routines. Through her dialogue with her husband Clay (Ethan Hawke), we get a sense of some discontent within the family. Although not explicitly mentioned, it is implied.

The couple travels with their daughter Rose (Farah Mackenzie) and their son Archie (Charlie Evans) for some time of peace and quiet. But it takes a swift turn when creepy things start happening around them. On the beach, they see a ship directly heading toward the coast. When they return home, they get no signal on their phone network. While their phones and internet stop working, two strangers suddenly arrive at the doorstep.

G. H. Scott (Mahershala Ali) and his daughter (Myha’la) claim that they are the owners of that house. Due to an unforeseen blackout in the city, they decided to make this trip. Amanda does not trust them as easily as Clay does. But she eventually agrees to let them stay the night. The strangeness does not stop there. It continues to be present in one way or the other.

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

The morning after their arrival, the TV suddenly stops working. Clay struggles to follow a route without online help in navigation. Their only source of information becomes each other or the people they see, meet, or have interactions with. But, along with an overall lack of credible information, they start receiving cryptic messages from unknown sources. With no clear answers in sight, they latch on to any source that provides them with one.

Leave the World Behind (2023) Movie Review
Mahershala Ali and Myha’la in Leave the World Behind (2023)

Considering the end-of-the-world nature of their situation, their worst possible traits start to surface. They struggle to keep their sanity intact. Without the escapist sources of media, their thoughts return to their primal desires. Everyone tries to seek any source of hope or comfort. No wonder Rose wants to know how things turn out for Rachel and Ross in “Friends.” Amidst all its strangeness, ‘Leave the World Behind’ builds an exceptional blend of jump scares and suspense. Like his previous works, Esmail leaves his stylistic imprint in the execution.

The camera moves around in unusual ways that are bound to irk the viewers. But it works in service of the film by amplifying the sense of horror in their lives. Esmail’s screenplay, based on Rumaan Alam’s novel, cleverly deconstructs several traits of the present lives of Americans. The aspects of race, class, professional and financial status also come into the picture to present a complex blend of moral dilemmas. Besides, it has a consistent undercurrent of socio-political critique that peeks its head out once in a while. The script ties up these knots well enough to make us ponder over its themes.

Still, the occasional soliloquies feel more staged than organic. At times, they clearly feel as if the writer is talking through a character and explaining their script and the subtext. Even with the gifted performers like Mahershala Ali and Julia Roberts, these moments take you out of the situation. Mahershala Ali’s natural charm lends itself to the service of his character. So, it does not feel remotely strange that someone would believe every word he says (as expected from the characters). Ethan Hawke is on point in presenting Clay’s bewilderment.

There is not even an iota of cheap dramatization that actors may resort to in such situations. Myha’la presents Ruth’s unapologetic brashness without letting the behavior seem edgy for the sake of it. Julia Roberts, who serves as a backbone in this thrilling drama, neatly explores Amanda’s ethical conflicts. So, despite its occasional false notes or the points where the film loses its momentum, there is enough to chew on in it to consider it a cerebral, edge-of-the-seat thriller.

Read More: 30 Underrated Sci-Fi Movies From Across The Globe

Leave the World Behind (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
The Cast of Leave the World Behind (2023) Movie: Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke, Myha’la
Leave the World Behind (2023) Movie Genre: Mystery & thriller/Drama, Runtime: 2h 20m
Where to watch Leave the World Behind (2023)

Similar Posts