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Film Review: Leave the World Behind (2023)

Kelaru & Fulton rating: ★★★

Available on Netflix | Runtime: 2 hrs 14 mins


Leave the World Behind operates on multiple levels, capturing societal anxiet-

ies and probing deeper questions of identity. Based on the novel by Rumaan Alam, this psychological thriller masterfully directed by Sam Esmail examines how a family’s idyllic vacation transforms into a surreal nightmare when unexpected guests arrive with ominous news of a nationwide blackout.

The linchpin holding this film together is the obsessive attention to detail of director Sam Esmail, famous for his equally disturbing series, Mr Robot. The story unfolds leisurely, devoting time to establish the family dynamics between Clay (Ethan Hawke), his wife Amanda (Julia Roberts), and their children before the weekend getaway at a lavish Long Island rental house. When the homeowners George and daughter Ruth (Mahershala Ali and Myha’la) unexpectedly turn up at their door with a rather vague explanation on the reasons why, a palpable tension settles in the house fuelled further by an unexplained blackout that has prompted a massive evacuation.

Although the script is not something to write home about, the camerawork amplifies subtle oddities—menacing animal noises, flickering lights - that may be real supernatural threats or simply signs of fraying nerves.

The expansive house with floor-to-ceiling windows serves as an unsettling char- acter, trapping the families inside growing paranoia. Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke do their best as parents protecting increasingly frightened children, while Mahershala Ali and Myha’la portray the complexity of survival instincts.

What unfolds is a hypnotic descent questioning the futility of escape when dangers lurk everywhere, outside and within one’s mind. The ending strikes a poignant note about human resilience despite fears of apocalyptic collapse – a constant anxiety in current times that Esmail deftly explores. Like its characters, Leave the World Behind remains suspended between reality and disturbing illusion. The setting and execution is great and Sam Esmail is clearly a capable direct- or, a shame that the flimsy script doesn’t use the high-quality actors to their full potential.



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