January 17th, 2023
MOVIE: WHEN YOU FINISH SAVING THE WORLD
STARRING: JULIANNE MOORE, FINN WOLFHARD, BILLY BRYK, ALISHA BOE, JAY O. SANDERS
DIRECTED BY: JESSE EISENBERG
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
If you watched When You Finish Saving the World without knowing, you might think Jesse Eisenberg wrote and directed it. The quirky and eccentric actor’s voice permeates through the characters written in his story. The matter involves a mother and son on two separate paths of life. One is a path of young adult growth to find purpose. The other is about rejuvenating that purpose a person has in the first place. When You Finish Saving the World is an awkward yet rewarding film, capturing how people can live under the same roof, be miles apart, and how we can navigate bringing people back together.
Ziggy (Finn Wolfhard) is a high school senior, he loves making his music, specifically living in his own head space, and live-streaming his music all across the globe. His mother is Evelyn (Julianne Moore), a self-motivated person, working at a social services center for abuse victims, but also focused on her own patterns of life. At the moment, Ziggy and Evelyn could not be farther apart. As the father, Roger (Jay O. Sanders) already has his own corner, quietly keeping to himself, living with an understanding for his cohabitators. The question becomes how did this family get here? Ziggy looks for comfort in Lila (Alisha Boe), a woman he has a crush on, and attempts to impress her by faking an interest in politics. While Evelyn seeks a new motherly role with a talented young man at her shelter Kyle (Billy Bryk). As they go through these journeys what becomes palpable is the tension, awkwardness, and lost sense of self.
Admittedly, it is the writing more than the directing from Eisenberg that works best. The style of this film is no different from a myriad of Sundance movies that capture families growing apart. What he does have, however, is the multilayered performance of Julianne Moore, an actor who always understands the assignment and nails it here. Wolfhard is slightly miscast, but that writing elevates him, and he proves his acting chops can overcome. Eisenberg tightly merges the performances with a revelation of lost connections. It fits in this world’s constant problem of having communication at our fingertips and people still can’t express themselves at all.
Those sentiments and themes are what heighten Eisenberg’s debut work. From a direction standpoint, I would say there needed to be more style implemented, as The Social Network star seems sure of his writing but unaware of how to make it his own. Structurally the story is straightforward with the eccentricities of the characters creating enough originality for a fresh take on human interactions. The vibe one gets is Hal Ashby or a fractured mother-son relationship similar to The Banshees of Inisherin.
It certainly helps to have Julianne Moore at the top of the call sheet but there is something deeper in When You Finish Saving the World. Jesse Eisenberg is going to be a great directing voice in cinema and he will do it in his individual way. These are not characters to fall in love with. They will drive the cringe feeling deep into your chest and these are definitely people we all know. They’re self-absorbed. Unable to see the love they have right in front of them. The underlying message is that we must stop seeking the other and instead appreciate the people we have. We can’t be saving the world but When You Finish Saving the World might just snap us back to reality.
WHEN YOU FINISH SAVING THE WORLD IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS FRIDAY JANUARY 20TH, 2022.
Written by: Leo Brady