“I’ve never been loved the way you loved me and I’m so sorry I didn’t know how to love you back.” Zoe Lister-Jones utters this lovely line with such emotion that one might expect it to be part of a dashing romantic monologue. The reality is much better and more heartbreaking. in the How it ends – which premiered on January 29th at the virtual Sundance Film Festival – Liza von Lister-Jones explores her insecurities at the end of the world with her metaphysical younger self (played by Cailee Spaeny) by her side.
“We lived it when we performed it.”
Lister-Jones and her husband (and often creative partner), Daryl Wein, dreamed up the apocalyptic project at the start of COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place. Although the film doesn’t mention the pandemic, Lister-Jones told POPSUGAR that the real parallels were intentional. “We lived it when we performed it,” she said. Inspired by their own therapy sessions, the couple navigated the fear and uncertainty of 2020 by envisioning a different type of apocalypse. As a meteor heads to Earth, Liza and her inner child wander through an unusually empty Los Angeles to clear open questions before a final party – one way to go out with a bang, if you will.
To achieve the film’s core premise, Lister-Jones had to identify her perfect young counterpart. Enter: Spaeny. The 23-year-old actress’ engagement felt like a natural extension of their last project together. The craft: legacy. Lister-Jones praises Spaeny as a “brilliant” and “eclectic” actress and since then as an element of The craft They were loosely based on Lister-Jones’ youth and had previous experience of attachment to their youthful selves.
“We obviously all had a lot of alone time to think about our inner demons and reflect on ourselves, maybe a little too much.”
Their intense discussions about emotional “hiccups and trauma” naturally turned into a new project. While the world grappled with the shutdown, Lister-Jones and Spaeny took a two-meter walk together and unpacked their feelings. “We obviously all had a lot of alone time to think about our inner demons and reflect on ourselves, maybe a little too much,” joked Spaeny. This self-reflection included therapeutic quarantine talks about “how to heal the inner child, what that means, and what work we need to do to be better people”. Easy, simple chats, of course.
“As a creative, it just made sense to pour [these conversations] into some kind of movie, “said Spaeny.” And it was actually pretty freaky. I wrote to Zoe: “Hey, I would like to do a movie with you guys. I think we should do something and get creative during this time. “Around the time Zoe and Daryl came up with some kind of loose outline for the film. It was really seamless. “That’s how a really warm comedy about Armageddon came about.
In addition to Spaeny, Lister-Jones and Wein have enlisted the help of friends and former coworkers such as Olivia Wilde, Colin Hanks, Bradley Whitford, Helen Hunt and Fred Armisen to join the cast under pandemic-friendly guidelines. They were filming on sidewalks, porches and balconies from a distance. The couple considered which characters Liza should face and began to reach out to the “perfect” people in their lives accordingly. Lister-Jones stated, “It was really just phone calls to everyone in person and the statement, ‘This is a wild time to be creative, but it seems like it could be a lifeline for all of us if you want to play.’ And we were lucky that there were so many of them. “
How it endsThe soundtrack acts as a different (invisible) character. “I created so many playlists during the quarantine that the movie was an extension of many of them,” Lister-Jones said. “Music is such an important part of our lives and the way it can affect a movie is so important.” The importance of music is undeniably felt in a scene with Lister-Jones’ real friend, musician Sharon Van Aetten, who also agreed to write two original songs for the film.
In the scene, Liza and her younger self meet Sharon playing guitar and singing on an empty street. She tells them that the song should be a duet and asks if they will accompany them. The young Liza joins them with little hesitation, but the adult Liza is less willing to get involved. When she finally does, she sings softly while proudly looking at her younger self with tears in her eyes.
“We dream so big when we are younger and then the realities of life and the roadblocks disturb.”
“I’ve always been interested in age-related dreams because it’s so common,” Lister-Jones said. “We dream so big when we’re younger and then the realities of life and the roadblocks interfere. Gatekeepers tend to water down those dreams in ways that can be heartbreaking to so many people. At that moment, I wanted to see that childlike excitement and confidence that so many of us lose as we grow up. ”
The catharsis only continues when Liza faces her divorced parents, faces her hideous ex, makes amends with her estranged best friend, and ultimately comes to terms with her inner child. The use of the film is strongly felt when Liza literally loses herself after a heated argument. “You have licked your damn wounds all your life,” yells young Liza at her older counterpart. “You didn’t realize that I am the biggest wound of all.”
The pain and suffering of unresolved teenage pain is felt in Spaeny’s performance, and Lizas’ eventual reconciliation is equally emotional. As a viewer, the scenes are incredibly relieving when they are played on the screen. For the actors, that relief was felt exponentially. “We could both go to a place where anything was possible,” said Lister-Jones. “I think in those scenes it was so liberating not only as a performer but also as a person to be able to work things through because they were very real to both of us personally. Just having the freedom to let it all out, it was like a therapy exercise that was filmed in some way. ”
There is no shortage of jokes or feel-good moments How it ends But one thing will be difficult for you: panic. There is little fear or horror in a film about the Apocalypse. People throw parties, drink wine straight from the bottle, and go on scavenger hunts for loved ones. The indulgences are sweet and the furthest away do the washing up-like horror. Instead, everyone has already come to terms with reality (except for the one neighbor who is still dropping his trash can at Armageddon Eve).
“Daryl and I wanted to create a mirror of what we experienced during the quarantine and what our friends and family experienced. This was that strange dichotomy between panic over this apocalyptic landscape and the super banal of being sweatpants every day and watching Netflix” said Lister-Jones. “We were all quickly resigned to this completely new and surreal way of life.”
Rather than relying on the “sheer chaos” expected of apocalyptic films, Lister-Jones and Wein opted for a “Zen-like quality” where people were already prepared for the end “because that was how it felt as if we all did. ” “” Lister-Jones said the film was ultimately about “connectivity and humanity,” lessons learned during nearly a year of pandemic life. “When the things we took for granted were removed from our lives, it became clear what was important. And that’s what this film is about.”
Image Source: Courtesy of How It Ends