The unnamed protagonists and characters in Mahalia Belo’s survival drama evoke a certain kind of detachment from them. You are always aware that these are people who are suffering because the world has come down to a place that it can never come back from. And yet, their fears, their struggles, and the fate they have to live with feel very urgent. Based on the novel of the same name by Megan Hunter, The End We Start From (2023) was brought to life by producer Benedict Cumberbatch, who brought the rights to the film even before it was officially published.
Starring Jodie Comer as a woman only known as ‘Mother’ in the film’s credits, the TIFF-premiered film takes an ecological crisis as its central narrative but is about motherhood and the messed up world we are going to leave for our children.
In the following article, we will take a detailed look at the film’s many turns while also briefly discussing its ending. Please be aware that this article will be full of spoilers, so please proceed at your own risk.
The End We Start From (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:
The film opens with Mother (Jodie Comer), a heavily pregnant woman all alone in her mid-London apartment, talking to her husband R (Joel Fry). We can see that her due date must be near, but since R is busy with his work, he is waiting for the emergency bell to strike.
As we notice Mother casually going about her days, the light rain outside keeps increasing in intensity until it starts seeping into the house. We can hear announcements of the rain going to an unprecedented level as Mother’s water breaks at the same time as the flooded water gushes into the house. The intense sequence of Mother trying to contact R – failing, contacting the ambulance services – failing, closely cut with her giving birth in a hospital with her baby safe while the hospital is full of patients make us aware of the situation without saying much.
Anyway, Mother gives birth to a baby boy and her father R is also present. The couple names the baby Zeb but are asked to leave early because of how crowded the hospitals are because of the ecological crisis that has hit them.
Since their home is currently underwater, Mother and R decide that they would go to R’s parent’s place as that would be the best bet for a safer environment for them.
The first sign of how devastating the impact of the crisis is on humanity is seen when the police stops them from going to their own home because most of the people living in flooded cities have been trying to find shelter on higher grounds. When they finally reach home, we meet R’s parent G (Nina Sosanya) and N (Mark Strong). For the time being, things go well as Mother feels safe and sound with Baby Zeb in a secure and loving home.
What happens to R’s parents?
However, soon enough, the house’s ration runs out, and R, G, and N decide to head to relief aid sites in order to get some food, leaving Mother behind because she is Zeb’s food as of now.
A few days pass by as Mother takes her duty as a new mother seriously. However, doing everything on her own takes a toll on her. Especially since the three of them have been gone for a while, and there’s no one to help her.
On one of the nights, Mother is faced with a stranger knocking on the door for food. He is accompanied by a child, and while our initial reaction is to consider the safety of Mother and Zeb, we cannot look beyond the selfishness that we, as humans, take up when we are desperate. The stranger and his child go away without harming the mother and Zeb.
However, bad news comes knocking for them eventually when R and N return home without proper ration or G. When Mother does not see her mother-in-law. It is later revealed that G was killed during one of the ration-distribution queues where a stampede near a food truck resulted in her demise. The grief of losing his wife at what looks like a possible end-of-the-world possibility leads N to kill himself.
Since the grief of losing his parents is too much for R, Mother decides that there’s nothing for them at their parent’s house anymore. So, they get on the road again, trying to find shelter and food for all of them. Mother even tries to get to one of the food trucks, expecting that people would be nice to her because she has a baby, but seeing the desperation in everyone’s eyes, she quickly comes back.
With no other way to handle the situation, the couple decided that they would go to one of the relief camps set up by the government. However, when they reach the camps, they get to know that they can only let Mother and Zeb in, and R has to fend for himself. For Zeb, Mother decides to join the camp anyway, in spite of not wanting R to leave her side.
This distance away from R – a constant supporter and the love of his life affects Mother psychologically. She starts having visions of the first time she met her in broad daylight; signally the descent of her calm center in this world full of tragedy.
Where does O take Mother?
At the camp, she feels really alone but eventually finds a friend in O (Katherine Waterston), another woman at the camp who has a little child who is almost the same age as Zeb. We get to know that O has been a single mother to her little girl ever since the father left them to fend for themselves. This makes her independent and forthright because her only concern is making sure her child is safe.
The two of them become each other’s support system before the shelter is attacked by looters, and everyone is forced to flee. The two women, along with their children, head towards the southern coast. O claims one of her old acquittances comes to the shore and picks up survivors to take them to her own commune that is on a distant island.
While walking to the shore, for the first time in many days, Mother witnesses humanity in a person who has had the same impact that everyone else has had, even more – but is empathetic for people still. AB (Benedict Cumberbatch) offers food to both O and Mother, and all of them have a nice, peaceful moment of togetherness as they dance to whatever they have been through. AB gives Mother hope when he learns that she is losing it.
The End We Start From (2023) Movie Ending, Explained:
Why does Mother leave the commune?
One thing that AB says, however, stays with Mother. He says that people have been so busy in accepting the new world that they have been trying to forget their tragedies or their lives before it.
So, when Mother and O finally reach the safe commune that has been living under the guidance of F (Gina McKee), Mother starts having her visions again. She misses her husband dearly, and since F is so adamant that no one talks about the past; skipping their grief, Mother finds it extremely difficult to just let go.
She is fully aware that there can’t be a safer place for her and Zeb than the commune, but the thought that R might be out there somewhere trying his best to survive keeps haunting her. So, on one fine day, Mother decides to leave the commune and head back to her home in London now that the world is trying to get back to normal after the flood.
Is Mother able to meet R when she heads back home?
She returns to London, after a misshape with a couple and their car and sees a lot of people returning back to a dilapidated city. She reaches one of the safe places for survivors, and even though there is very little hope in her mind, seeing her picture on a pamphlet on the missing people’s board makes her feel a ray of it. It makes her believe that after the happenings at the camps, R was still looking for her and Zeb.
The ending of The End We Start From (2023) is set a few days after Mother returns to London. After all the checks are done, people are allowed to go to their residences that are rid of all the flood water. She returns to her apartment and starts to clean up the broken house from scratch. In the final moments of the movie, we see R walking through the front door of their house, shocked to see that his wife and child are still alive. Mother is equally perplexed to see R but also relieved that their resilience through the epic disaster has allowed them to have another shot at life; this time with baby Zeb.