We’re All Gonna Die (2024)


We’re All Gonna Die Review

A science fiction road trip with an uneven dose of grief, “We’re All Gonna Die” puts its biggest idea on the backburner after introducing it in thrilling fashion. The principal performances are occasionally strong, but writer-directors Matthew Arnold and Freddie Wong of web studio Rocket Jump struggle to maintain a consistent sincerity around their subject matter, leaving behind a movie full of tonal oddities.

An enormous extraterrestrial “spike” crash lands on Earth and begins moving between locations via teleportation, something the film smartly establishes through news and social media clips. Twelve years and nearly 1,500 “jumps” later (the movie is set in 2036 but technology does not seem to have advanced at all), mass death has become so common that differentiating one catastrophe from another is hardly worth anyone’s effort.

While Thalia (Ashly Burch) tends her bees throughout the day she seems to have stopped beekeeping professionally since Kai tells her he buys his honey at the store her parents and in-laws gather to mourn her husband and daughter near where they were buried some time ago. She does not join them, she barely even acknowledges their deaths, letting weeds grow up over their tombstones. But when a giant spike hovers overhead as she finishes loading jars of honey into her truck for a delivery meant to chip away at her mounting debts, Thalia accidentally runs into Kai (Jordan Rodrigues), an EMT who has been sitting in his now-rusted sports car ever since his best friend died next to him before that friend could propose to Kai’s sister at the Grand Canyon. Their meet cute by collision is short-lived though, as weird spike stuff happens: It teleports Thalia’s bees across state lines while also swapping Kai’s recently inherited vehicle with them, forcing them into partnership for a retrieval mission that brings both characters’ personal tragedies into sharper focus.

But the movie’s construction is soon problematic. Silent moments between its characters suggest chemistry (sometimes in funny ways, like how Thalia hates that she finds Kai’s muscular calves attractive), but their conversations tend to sound repetitive, resulting in long scenes with little rhythm or resonance. The comedy suffers from this unpolished quality too; aside from the occasional visual gag (e.g., hot for Kai Thalia having to suppress her calf-related desires), its jokes lack specificity of quirk and particularly between these two people-ness, instead aiming for observations and quips that could be interchangeable among any of the film’s roles.

The duo’s initial back-and-forths do establish an uncomfortable romantic tension between them within their shared disorientation over what the hell is happening around them, but this conversational register remains largely unchanged even as they are forced to confront how differently they process death. Eventually every minor character they encounter typically some lost soul nursing their own set of difficulties becomes a target of their snark, yielding an irreverent meanness that wears out its welcome quickly.

All the while, the movie keeps shoving its conceit further into the background until it nearly ceases to exist altogether, only for it then to re-emerge in forms physical (and more importantly emotional-symbolic) properties never established earlier. Ironically enough for a film about a teleporting spike, this spike does a lot of wandering so much so that it ends up feeling too amorphous and detached to resonate with anything else going on among those left standing in front.

Movies that are so abstract about science fiction can reflect griefs that are difficult to understand (like “Stalker” and “Solaris” by Tarkovsky, or even “The Fountain” by Darren Aronofsky). But the symbolism in “We’re All Gonna Die” is too scattered and vague. It’s a post-COVID movie trying to grapple with mass deaths and societal shifts; every minor character suffers some kind of loss. However, the film doesn’t grasp how these ripples would change individuals at their core nor does it show the effect of this on society.

At least Burch and Rodrigues put enough emotion into it against Mlambo’s lush magic hour cinematography for us to recognize ourselves in there somewhere. The actors fight against an intentionally overwhelming sense of loss. But the filmmakers don’t know what else to do with this experience except make it big: bigger than death, bigger than life itself even. So close to being meaningful.

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