‘We’re All Gonna Die’ Review: An Indie Film Drenched in Grief, Yet Squanders Sci-Fi Opportunities

The creative duo from RocketJump grapples with capturing the essence of grief, falling short in their attempt to evoke resonance.

We're All Gonna Die

In “We’re All Gonna Die,” a sci-fi road trip intertwined with themes of grief, the initial excitement of its concept quickly fades into the background. While the lead performances occasionally shine, writer-directors Freddie Wong and Matthew Arnold, known for their work with web-based studio RocketJump, struggle to maintain sincerity, resulting in a disjointed tone.

The film opens with the arrival of an enormous alien “spike” crashing down on Earth, which begins teleporting between locations. This premise is effectively established through news and social media clips. Fast forward twelve years to nearly 1500 “jumps” later, placing the story in 2036. However, despite the passage of time, technology appears to have stagnated, while mass death and casualties have become commonplace.

As beekeeper Thalia (played by Ashly Burch) goes about her daily routine, she seems to ignore the mourning gathering of her parents and in-laws at the tombstones of her departed husband and daughter, allowing neglect to overtake the surroundings. Meanwhile, she embarks on a crucial honey delivery by truck to settle her mounting debts. Along the way, she encounters Kai (portrayed by Jordan Rodrigues), an EMT grieving the loss of his best friend while sitting in his abandoned sports car. Their encounter is soon disrupted by a strange spike-related phenomenon that teleports Thalia’s bees and Kai’s vehicle across state lines. Forced to team up for a retrieval mission, they confront their respective personal tragedies along the way.

Unfortunately, the film’s construction reveals several issues. While silent moments between the characters hint at chemistry, often in humorous ways such as Thalia’s conflicted feelings towards Kai’s muscular calves, their conversations tend to feel repetitive. Lengthy scenes lacking rhythm or resonance result from this repetition. The comedy also feels unpolished, with jokes relying more on generic observations and quips rather than specific quirks or interpersonal dynamics.

Initially, the duo’s banter creates an uneasy romantic tension amid their disorienting predicament. However, this tone remains largely unchanged, even as the characters confront their differing approaches to grief. Eventually, every minor character they encounter becomes a target of their snark, leading to a pervasive irreverence that rarely relents.

Throughout the film, the initial concept gradually recedes into the background until it nearly fades away, only to reappear with physical properties and emotional symbolism that were previously unestablished. Ironically, the teleporting spike becomes a wandering metaphor, too malleable and detached to resonate with the foreground characters.

While abstract sci-fi has the potential to explore the complexities of grief, as seen in films like Tarkovsky’s “Solaris” and “Stalker,” Alex Garland’s “Annihilation,” and Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain,” “We’re All Gonna Die” fails to utilize its symbolism effectively. The movie’s portrayal of grief feels scattered and vague, lacking a lasting impact. Despite loss being a central theme for every character, minor or major, the film never fully captures the magnitude of these societal changes or the profound impact they have on individuals. It attempts to grapple with the aftermath of widespread death and societal shifts post-COVID, yet falls short of conveying the depth of these experiences and their effects on personal and societal levels.

At its core, Burch and Rodrigues deliver emotionally resonant performances, infusing the film with a recognizable humanity amidst the dreamlike warmth captured by cinematographer Bongani Mlambo’s lush, magic-hour photography. The actors effectively convey the weight of loss, navigating the confusing enormity of grief with skill and intentionality.

However, while the actors excel in their roles, the filmmakers struggle, albeit less intentionally, to provide meaningful context for this emotional experience. As a result, “We’re All Gonna Die” falls tragically close to being resonant, yet ultimately misses the mark in fully capturing the depth and complexity of the human condition in the face of loss.

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