How It Ends review: Apocalyptic tale is ‘a meandering series of comedic cameos’

Zoe Lister-Jones and Cailee Spaeny star in apocalyptic comedy How It Ends (Image: Daryl Wein/Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

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What would you be doing if an asteroid made its way to Earth to wipe out all life?

Well, Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones’ How It Ends doesn’t take this question too seriously but instead focuses on finding your younger and more vulnerable self through a rather on-the-nose metaphysical relationship.

With disaster on the way, the deadpan Liza (played by Lister-Jones) plans on partying her cares away until Armageddon comes. However, her companion in this journey is a very enthusiastic and very visible manifestation of her teenage self, played by Cailee Spaeny.

Setting out on foot across the suburbs of sunny Los Angeles, the two Lizas confront old friends, old flames, bizarre strangers, friendly strangers, their parents, and their own hang-ups ahead of their final moments on Earth.

Zoe Lister-Jones, director and star of How It Ends
(Image: Daryl Wein/Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

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Clearly filmed in the times of the coronavirus pandemic and utilising a sense of staid nihilism, Wein and Lister-Jones bring out some levity to challenging circumstances, not unlike what is needed in the times we currently find ourselves.

However, How It Ends feels too slight, quirky, meandering and repetitive for its own good. One can’t help but feel like the film is an excuse for comedy stars to have some fun amid the era of lockdowns and not all of these encounters land their gags where they should.

Lister-Jones and Spaeney are equally charming and work well off of each other, but the ‘totally quirky’ conceit of their relationship is rather one-note and grows somewhat tiresome.

Olivia Wilde is one of the many stars to cameo in the film
(Image: Getty Images)

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The best of the episodic encounters lie with the likes of Olivia Wilde as a kooky former friend – with a fun Timothee Chalamet joke – and New Girl’s Lamorne Morris as an ex of Liza’s who had some specific needs. However, many of the other cameos are just grating and offer neither thoughtful commentary or laughs.

Other less successful appearances include an irate Helen Hunt and an eccentric Bradley Whitford as Liza’s estranged parents, Fred Armisen as the ‘younger self’ of an unseen elderly man, and Logan Marshall-Green as another of Liza’s former flames.

Despite suggesting emotional throughlines to proceedings, these feel half-baked at best and trite and repetitive at worst.

Ultimately, How It Ends offers a few fun moments and a picturesque look at the streets of Los Angeles but fails to mine any interesting material nor provide enough laughs to justify its purpose.


How It Ends is a pretty but meandering series of comedic cameos that offers a mixed bag of gags and not really anything interesting to say.

How It Ends premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2021 but does not currently have a UK release date.

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