The End We Start From review — Jodie Comer survives watery apocalypse

A capsule version of this review appeared on FITI during my coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2023.

Directed by Mahalia Belo | Written by Alice Birch from the Megan Hunter novel | 102 min | ▲▲▲△△ |  VOD and Digital Platforms

Alice Birch is the writer of the series, Normal People, and the features, Lady Macbeth, and The Wonder. Carrying the film effortlessly in her first lead role is Jodie Comer, who arrives as a fully formed movie star thanks to her work on stage and in Killing Eve. surrounded by but never overshadowed by a much more experienced supporting cast —Katherine Waterston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Gina McKee, Mark Strong, and Joel Fry. Director Belo may have honed her chops in television, but she brings an expansive palate to her first feature on the big screen.

The End We Start From is a survival picture set in a post-apocalyptic landscape, a lot more Into The Forest  than Mad Max. Comer is the unnamed new mother who with her partner (Fry) barely escapes London during a Biblical storm and flood. Taking refuge with his parents in the country isn’t sustainable, and before long she and the baby are fending for themselves away from populated areas.

The stakes are never less than life and death, with dual subtexts of climate crisis anxiety — what will we leave for our kids but an irrevocably damaged and dangerous world — and the challenge of being a single mother underscoring every decision she makes for both of them. It’s about witnessing an entirely unprepared and desperate Jodie waiting and walking, and in that it’s telling the story of a climate refugee.

Later on the tension is between letting go of a world that existed before to make the best of things as they are now, or somehow try to go back and revive the past, to rebuild. It’s complicated, the decision between a matriarchal society that provides equality but comes with sacrifice, and perhaps the hope of saving a life left behind. I won’t say what choice is made, but it’s unlikely to please everyone.

With so much of this story told in exteriors, framed by sky and water, it can’t help but touch on the epic, even as the human drama is always intimate. Mostly set against Comer’s expressive face, there’s a lot to appreciate in the performances, though Belo’s less interested in genre commitments than a gentle nuance in her melancholy — but far from hopeless — tale.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.