To acquire wisdom, one must observe

‘Leave The World Behind’ succeeds despite a clear failure of confidence

There are many things I love about “Leave the World Behind.” When I describe it, I can’t help but call it a great movie. I have so much respect for the storytelling, for the acting and just the creativity displayed. But, in the same breath, this movie makes me furious. There are significant aspects of the film that seemed so avoidable and ill-thought-out. Few movies have left me feeling as conflicted as “Leave the World Behind.”

Released on Netflix last November, “Leave the World Behind” is a movie best entered blindly. Its build-up is one of its finest qualities. It takes nearly an hour to understand what the genre of the movie is and more than two hours to piece together what the central threat is. The movie’s runtime may ultimately be excessive, but how it strings together the world, constantly dropping clues and new mysteries about what is going on to the two families at the movie’s center is excellent. Never boring, never predictable. It is difficult to leave a viewer utterly in the dark and still captivate them for an entire two hours and 20 minutes, but “Leave the World Behind” succeeds. However, not without great effort, and this is where the movie fails itself.

The build-up in this movie is captured, in part, by these sweeping wide-lensed shots and a fast-paced, loud score. These two qualities work well to build tension and add to the audience’s intrigue while the storyline at the beginning of the movie remains pretty slow. As the movie continues, as is generally the case with movies, the circumstances faced by the main characters are heightened. The story is getting more exciting, more action-packed. But those techniques, used at the beginning of the movie to artificially create tension, are still being used. When, in one scene, a character is surrounded by hundreds of deer and then in the next scene, a protagonist has a gun pointed at his head, the audience understands that tension is occurring. The loud music and epic Nolan-esque wide-lensed pans are no longer necessary to set this tension and have in fact become grating, patronizing and repetitive. The choice to continue this style throughout the entire movie either shows a lack of faith in the audience or a lack of faith in the director, and either way it hurts the movie.

“Leave the World Behind” is also too long. It is important that the movie has time to build suspense and slowly un-peel the threat being faced by the characters, while also fleshing out those characters, so length in and of itself is not an issue, but the movie does not earn its length. The problem comes from the platitudes, scenes where two people talk in an attempt to give the movie deeper meaning or morals. They don’t work and they take up way too much time. Practically no movie can do casual philosophizing dialogue well. The characters in “Leave the World Behind” are otherwise well written and portrayed by an excellent cast. They have interesting, complex and realistic relationships, but this movie is not “My Dinner with Andre” and it should not have wasted time trying to be.

This review will not spoil the ending to the movie, but I cannot ignore that much of the criticism levied against this movie is in regards to the ending. Specifically saying it is a bad ending. Don’t listen to those people. The ending of this movie is awesome; it will leave you in awe. It leaves the story completely open-ended—which may frustrate some audiences—but it is a fantastic and satisfying ending I have not stopped thinking about.

Get Our Stories Sent To Your Inbox

Skip to content