This article reveals the explained plot and the detailed events in David M. Rosenthal’s How It Ends, revealing its meaning and storyline. We recommend you to read it only after watching the movie, and not before, in order to preserve the pleasure of the first vision.
The apocalyptic genre in cinema has always had a hold. The fear that the world could end at any moment has always been part of human history, for centuries, and being able to see the possibilities on film serves as a catharsis and a preparation at the same time. Among the most popular films of the genre in recent times is How It Ends, a 2018 film directed by David Rosenthal and distributed on Netflix. Let’s see together the plot, the ending of the film and how the world will end according to the events.
In the film, the world as we know it ceases to exist suddenly: at the beginning of the film, as Will talks on the phone with his girlfriend Sam, who is currently in Seattle, miles away, there is a roar outside Sam’s windows, the frightened girl says that “something is wrong” and the communication is interrupted. Since then, electricity has gone out throughout the entire United States, flights are canceled, phones stop working, and military planes begin flying low over the city.
At that point, Will’s long drive begins with Sam’s father, Tom, with whom he doesn’t have a good relationship. During the journey, which fills a large part of the film, the two will begin to bond, in the sign of the sincere relationship they both have with the daughter/girlfriend. The journey, however, is full of pitfalls: in a panicked world, there is no shortage of people trying to steal cars or petrol, armed with guns, or making checkpoints on the main streets. There are no law enforcement to turn to: the world has become a wild and no longer safe place.
Tom will end up losing his life during the journey, due to the consequences of an accident on the way. Will will continue the journey alone and will be able to arrive in Seattle, a destroyed, deserted city with unbreathable air, buildings on fire and dead men inside their own cars. Will finds a message written on the wall at the girl’s house and joins her in a suburban house owned by the neighbor. This brings us to the ending of the film.
The meaning of the film and the explanation of the ending
In the finale, after Will’s six-day journey and reuniting with his girlfriend, we finally talk about what’s going on. Sam and the neighbor Jeremiah can only say what they saw, and try hypotheses (Jeremiah’s are particularly paranoid), but the truth is that no one knows what happened and the film doesn’t give a clear answer to how the world will end. There are continuous volcanic explosions, the sea has retracted, the Earth’s magnetic field seems to have gone mad and the blackout has wreaked havoc, but whether an atomic bomb has indeed been dropped, or whether the end of the world is caused by a magnetic storm that destroys the earth’s geomagnetic field causing that kind of consequences, nobody knows.
The film does not explain the end of the world in scientific terms, but shows what the end looks like from the point of view of men: the common sense of humanity is lost, the neighbor becomes an enemy from which to defend oneself, or even to attack, in order to increase the chances of survival in the new world. The bonds that existed before are the only ones that remain, and will be those that will guide the actions of men in the early days, while those that are formed after the end of the world remain fleeting and uncertain. This is what happened to Sam and Jeremiah: Jeremiah saves Sam’s life by taking her away from Seattle and protecting her in his shelter in the suburbs, but when Will arrives, Jeremiah doesn’t see him as a friendly presence, but as an intruder in a balance in which he saw only himself and Sam.
The next morning, Will discovers Geremia fiddling in his car and asks him what he was doing. Under a pretext, Jeremiah takes him farther from the house and attempts to kill him, arrogating the right to “speak out” about the situation after the bond he has developed with Sam. Will manages to kill him before the other shoots, then runs away to the house and drags Sam in the car: the two must escape as soon as possible because a new explosion has filled the sky and a cloud of volcanic debris is invading the whole area. Nature is destroying the world as we know it and Will and Sam escape in their car. They kiss, they promise each other love “whatever happens” and the last frame sees their car trying to get away from the cloud that follows it.
Will Sam and Will survive? Does the world end with the death of all human beings? This film has no clear answer, and indeed leaves open the possibility of a sequel. The meaning of the film therefore becomes precisely this: when the world ends, it will not be clear to men what happens and we will concentrate on trying to survive in all ways, remaining tied to real affections. Whether and how men will survive, this is something we cannot know.