The World’s End: the third and final entry into the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy.
And what an entry. What an incredibly strange, downbeat and heartbreaking entry.
I went with three people who seemed to enjoy it well enough; the consensus seemed to be that it was good fun, possibly not quite as good as “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”, but with enough yuks to see it through and be genuinely entertaining. It was, as with the rest of the trilogy, a good romp that lampoons British culture and various movie and TV tropes.
Did anyone else notice this is possibly one of the saddest movies made in recent years?
It was absolutely, heart-breakingly tragic.
This wasn’t a knock about comedy, rather it charted the irretrievable psychotic breakdown of a man whose life peaked at 17.
For the first hour or so, it meandered pleasantly enough with Simon Pegg’s character busting out of a group therapy session in order to complete some “unfinished business”. The business being a pub crawl along the “Golden Mile” of his home town of Newton Haven. Having only managed 8 of the 12 pubs on the previous attempt, Gary seems to think that finishing this pub crawl will somehow kick start his life.
He rounds up his old school friends, most of whom would rather not have anything to do with him anymore and all of whom despair of the fact that despite pushing 40, Gary hasn’t made any attempt to grow up in the post-school years.
Through a series of outright lies, he gathers them altogether and reluctantly, they set off on the pub crawl. It becomes apparent that the only person enjoying himself if Gary and by the fourth pub, his friends turn on him, denounce him as a total loser and Gary begins to fall apart.
This is the point that my companions opinions and mine diverge.
Gary disappears to the toilet and encounters an uncommunicative youth. Despite trying to get him to talk, the youth stays quiet. Gary gets a bit frustrated, eventually picking a fight.
The boy turns out to be a robot (or not) and mayhem ensues.
or does it?
See, I don’t think any of this happened exactly. I genuinely beleive that from the moment his friends turn on him, he suffered a catastrophic, psychotic episode and everything that happens from that point on is all happening inside his head. It’s wish fulfilment; bonding again with his estranged friends and giving his life a meaning that it could never really have. It places him back on top of his world he becomes a player once again.
His world, his town, has become alien, unforgiving and plastic. His inability to function within a world where he simply isn’t the coolest, greatest person in his school, brings that alienation to life in the most frightening way possible. Quite simply, he loses his mind. And not, it seems, for the first time.
Yes, it’s easy to read that as knock about comedy with robots and aliens and shit. And frankly, I would probably have enjoyed the movie more had that been the case. But I just can’t shake the feeling that this movie is something more.
I found it uncomfortable in the same way I find Alan Partridge uncomfortable. Yes, he’s a twat, but there is an almost tangible air of tragedy that surrounds him. I don’t deny that Partridge was a dick, but post-breakdown, he stopped being funny and it became more of an exercise in mental health voyeurism.
The Worlds End is the same. It’s less about the comedy (and there is plenty of that, don’t get me wrong) and more about watching this guy disintegrate.
There are clues throughout the movie – mostly in the form of pub signs that read like the worst tarot reading imaginable – that all is not as it seems, but it never actually states outright that this is all a delusional fantasy. Actually, all the character names are playing cards too. King, Knightley, Page, Chamberlain….so maybe I”m onto something. The fact that they all know Kung Fu and a battery of other martial arts, which I admit is usual in action movies, seems incongruous in this story and context; perhaps another thing Gary think’s “should be”? An unreliable memory of past glories?
At a crucial point in the apocalyptic events unfolding, we see Gary wrists are bandaged and he still wears a hospital wristband.
But when it boils down to it, once he realises he’s never going to get his glory and gang back, his brain manufactures a situation whereby, he comes out on top, he gets his old gang back and he doesn’t have to grow up and take any sort of responsibility.
In the final scenes, we see Gary’s legend narrated as he would want it heard. We see him drinking water with his gang. Essentially, drinking water is the lynchpin of his delusion. In order for it to function while making it seem like he’s moved on and living a purposeful life, he has to be seen to do what his friends suggested: become a normal and purposeful human being by stopping his alcohol consumption. He believes he’s done that and his delusion os complete.
I reckon he’s still on the floor in the pub toilet having o.d.ed
All of this sounds like I didn’t enjoy it. I did. I think it’s fantastic movie, but it sure as hell isn’t a comedy.