SXSW Review: Everyone’s Going to Die


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A few things enticed me about the movie Everyone’s Going to Die. There’s the title, first of all, which is striking, especially for a kooky romantic comedy/misfit love story. It comes from the title of a character’s play about coping with loss. There’s also the trailer (included after the cut), which features the infectiously catchy song “Two Cousins” by Slow Club.

Just these two things alone made me hope for a fun watch some time during South by Southwest, though I really didn’t know what to expect walking in. It even takes a short bit of time to get acquainted with the film and its tone. Leaving the theater, I had a goofy smile on my face and a little dance in my shoes: that feeling of pleasant surprises, happy accidents, and sudden bouts of love at first sight.

Everyone’s Going to Die
Director: Jones
Rating: TBD
Release Date: TBD
Country: UK 

Misfit love stories are usually the best kinds of love stories, or at least I think so. Whether it’s Harold and Maude, Punch-Drunk Love, or Minnie and Moskowitz, I think there’s always more at stake for the misfits than for the Kate Hudsons, Jennifer Anistons, and Matthew McConaugheys in the film world. It may go all the way back to the politics of the schoolyard, which is just as deadly as the wild: the people on inside of the herd will be protected and never truly isolated — they will survive. Meanwhile, the outsiders are doomed unless they submit to the indignities of the herd or can find another outsider. That’s especially the case with people who feel lost in life for various reasons, which is where we find Melanie (Nora Tschirner) and Ray (Rob Knighton).

Melanie is a German woman living in the UK, stuck in a doomed engagement to a mostly-absent British artist, and unhappily forced to babysit her fiance’s niece since she can’t get a job. Her husband-to-be makes furniture out of other pieces of furniture, which is just one example of the movie’s absurd deadpan. We know Melanie’s a misfit right at the beginning: she’s passed out drunk in a pool with a Charlie Chaplin mustache, though it initially seems like a Hitler mustache until she puts on her bowler.

She meets Ray in a small cafe when he spots her 20 pence to buy a coffee and sandwich. It’s one of the brief moments of attraction that’s more magnetic than romantic — real recognize real, oddball recognize oddball. They strike up a rapport and feel a sudden comfort in their own skin. Ray, also in a bad relationship (a failing marriage), looks a bit like Rutger Hauer as one of the Reservoir Dogs, and he’s got a mysterious job that fits the profile. His early misfit moment: the channel on his hotel TV is stuck on a gay chatline advert. The man splayed in his tight underoos is speaking to a deep desire: he just needs someone to talk to. 

I mentioned that it takes a little bit of time for Everyone’s Going to Die to establish its tone (though in retrospect, two shots in the opening scene should have clued me in immediately). Once you get into the movie’s groove, however, the oddball humor just doesn’t stop. Witty line after witty line, a constant back and forth of dry and comic observations, many punctuated by Ray’s command of “Fuck off” whenever Melanie makes fun of his age. He’s punchy at first, but it’s flirtier than it is serious. And then there’s the short play within the film called Everyone’s Going to Die, a brilliant piece of absurdity done completely straight for the maximum laughs. What comes immediately after the play is somehow more absurd, but it fits in the strange world of the film.

This wit and sharpness works in large part thanks to Tschirner’s and Knighton’s chemistry on screen. If it’s not love between them or physical attraction, it’s at least the familiar ease of strangers-who-become-friends-who-become-lovers. They also communicate the sense of outsiderness well in whatever they do. Both the characters are at major crossroads of repeating the same old patterns of failure and self-recrimination. There’s a comfort in being locked into something even if it doesn’t turn out for the best. And yet there’s the moral imperative for the outsiders in these misfit romances: outsiders should help get other outsiders unstuck.

Everyone’s Going to Die was written and directed by Jones, a UK-based filmmaking collective/duo. I think the reason so much of the quick and dry dialogue works is this kind of collaboration. It’s almost as if the two people in Jones were getting into conversations and recording the lines, interjections, and tangents. While this could result in all the characters speaking with the same voice or pair of voices, it’s varied and modulated enough so that everyone has a distinct personality.

It’s an impressive feature-length debut for Jones. The filmmaking seems confident and assured, and Jones even ends the movie about four or five shots before a Hollywood story would end (which is usually the best place to end a movie anyway). On top of all the wit and punch and honesty in the performances, there’s an impressive soundtrack. Though Slow Club is only in the trailer as far as I remember, there’s great punctuation in scenes from We Are Augustines and other bands whose names I don’t know but whose songs I can’t get out of my head.

Maybe collaborative writing is fitting for misfit romance movies. If these stories are about outsiders meeting other outsiders, clicking because of common interest, and escaping because they finally feel able to, it would make sense for two people to be the guiding hands for the story — form and content/content and form. The old idea of an essential solitude for writing doesn’t seem quite so lonely anymore as long as two like minds are working together. That makes sense for this film. Everyone’s Going to Die makes you glad that it’s possible to get found, no matter how lost you’re feeling.

Hubert Vigilla
Brooklyn-based fiction writer, film critic, and long-time editor and contributor for Flixist. A booster of all things passionate and idiosyncratic.