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TIFF 2023 Review: The End We Start From – “An apocalyptic drama with a unique take.”

Jodie Comer in THE END WE START FROM.  Courtesy of TIFF

As climate change continues to get more severe around the globe, we are left with questions as to what we will do when catastrophe hits.  Will we be part of the group of people prepared for disaster, or will we ignore warnings until it’s too late?  The people we encounter in Mahalia Belo‘s feature debut, The End We Start From have had to make these decisions as sudden, severe flooding overtakes many of the city centres in the UK.

Usually, water means life, but in this case it also means death.  What starts as a typically rainy London morning just doesn’t stop.  Heavy rains begin to flood the streets, water begins to seep under doors, crops are ruined.  The morning the worst of it breaks through her home, a pregnant woman (Jodie Comer, her character remains nameless) goes into labour.  Her partner (Joel Fry) manages to get to the hospital, and very soon after their son’s birth, they are rushed out with quick instructions from the nurses.  Their home flooded, they have to leave London, and only manage to get into a town where relatives live because of their newborn.  Otherwise, these places of refuge are cut off from outsiders.

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But, the flooding continues, circumstances change and eventually, the new mother and her partner become separated.  They are in search for basic human needs – shelter, food, safety – but as situations change and desperation for resources increases humanity’s worst comes to the forefront.  This woman and her child now must vie for survival against others and the elements.

The End We Start From is based on the 2017 novel by Megan Hunter and adapted by Alice Birch (Lady MacBeth, mini-series Normal People amongst her credits).  Director Mahalia Belo, best known for the mini-series The Long Song, has a definite creative vision from the first frames of this film where steam from a running bath overtakes the scene, a theme within the water to be repeated later in the film.  It’s clever and its style catches your attention from the outset.

But, this film doesn’t exist without the powerhouse performance from Jodie Comer.  The actor, from beloved series Killing Eve (though also memorable in The Last Dual) carries the weight of this movie on her more than capable shoulders.  Whether it’s the rare moment her character feels despair, or the happy interactions with her son, or the determination this new mother must have to make it through, Comer is game for it all.  She is helped with strong appearances from actors like Mark Strong, Katherine Waterston and Benedict Cumberbatch (who also produces), but she is the memorable force here.

The End We Start From has a more than predictable arc and ending, but it’s always about the journey.  And it’s a journey that counts and focuses on the resiliency of mothers and women.  It’s no mistake that the baby is the only character here with a name (Zeb) – he is the driving force for everything Comer’s character does.  He’s the future.  He’s her anchor to the present.  He’s her home (one of the meanings of the name is ‘dwelling of honour’).

But, along the way, this woman comes into contact with other strong women.  One that had the forethought to plan, one that starts a commune that offers safety, one that meets challenges with morbid humour, and it’s these women and their relationships which are the strength that see through disaster.  It’s nice to see a film where there are no damsels in distress, where we find women as resourceful and strong.  The End We Start From is an apocalyptic drama with a unique take.  And that last frame, well it just brings everything into focus.

The End We Start From had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival Monday, September 11th with additional public showings through the rest of the festival.  For information please visit

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