Friday, 2 February 2018

END OF THE FXXXING WORLD (2018) - review

Like an angsty Bonnie and Clyde, like Holden Caulfield if he had the gall to punish those "phonies", like True Romance with more anxiety, End of the Fxxxing World gives us loves young dream running amok with ankle knives and daddy's old jacket. Based on the comic by Charles S. Forsman, we are treated to eight short and blunt episodes of James and Alyssa's escapades as they attempt to relinquish themselves of the staggering boredom of pedestrian, sub-urban life.

James (Alex Lawther) is a 17 year old self-diagnosed psychopath, and, despite his self-imposed isolation, he is excited to make the progression from animal murder to human murder. All that he needs is a victim. Cue Alyssa (Jessica Barden), the stand-offish new girl at school whose had enough of pervy step-dad's and the ennui of teenagedom and seeks adventure. After insulting one another, they agree to go on a date and then run away together. After a series of grievous mishaps, they find themselves on the run from the law and in seeking the shelter of Alyssa's long lost father.

The editing is punchy, delivering us devastating blows and humorous instances with excellent timing. One thing I couldn't help is feel a twinge of guilt for acknowledging that these characters are kinda cool, even though I know they veer wildly from deluded to bratty to downright criminal. Of course, this is all down to the style the programme cultivates. An excellent soundtrack, with the likes of Bernadette Carroll, Wanda Jackson and The Spencer Davis Group, gives the show sense of timelessness. We are not subjected to the barrage of EDM and slow piano covers that fills the charts but instead older music that is made to suggest a hint of irony but conversely more sincerity. James and Alyssa dare and lie to each other, tell the audience their true thoughts in the voice over, and then let the music give testament to the world they wish could exist if it wasn't for everyone else.

As well as the music, the settings also give a sense of existing in some hyper-real nowhere land. Instead of the usual British high street standards of Pound Land and New Look we have anonymous charity shops and grungy-looking general stores. Everything has an aura of tattiness to it, a dishevelled quality equal to our heroes own bedraggled mind-frame after unwittingly committing crimes. All this in contrast to the much more tidy but equally anonymous suburbs: as their desires turn from the cocksure posturing in the first episodes to the rundown high street, they end up isolated and alone in the last few episodes as they make it to a trailer hidden in the long grass.

As you'd expect, these characters are not cool. James is not a psychopath, and Alyssa really does want earnest affection from someone she can trust. Being cool is not a good lifestyle choice: Bonnie and Clyde ended up dead; Holden cries at his sister on a carousel; and Clarence and Alabama end up in exile in Mexico. James and Alyssa's ending is no less devastating, but their character arch is much more tender then you'd expect, and their surprisingly chaste love is defined more by their defence of each other then any kind of rebellious posturing. Still, they are flawed kids who learn their lesson far too late.

With a great supporting cast, including Steve Oram, Wunmi Mosaku, Gemma Whelan and Jonathan Aris, End of the Fxxking World is over the top and on the preposterous end of dramatic, but told with flair, portraying the true essence of the teenage-style end-of-history illusion without reducing is cast to cliches.



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