The world has been thrust into darkness. Inside a house, gloved hands fumble around, searching for sustenance. A masked young man enters a bedroom, and in a sharp cut, he sees two dead and diseased bodies. We smash cut to the daytime on a sunny, open road as the man travels by bike in a quiet and seemingly lifeless world.
“After the End”, is a film about isolation in the time of a deadly virus. A timely film to be sure, this one is not a mere cash-in on the current pandemic that began in 2020.
Writer Joshua V. Scher and director Ron Hanks are concerned with character and the examination of loneliness and what constitutes survival.
The lead character, Addison, is played by a very good Justin Dwayne Hall. A longtime preparer for any doomsday scenario, he is more than capable of surviving on his own. Addison learned his survival skills from his Uncle Izzy, whom he is trying to find.
Addison spends the opening moments alone, scrounging for food, and lighting fireworks in the hope that someone will find him. He needs a connection, as his loneliness is overwhelming. He spends nights looking at videos of his mother on his cell phone. She is gone but her memories remain. Addison uses the videos as a visual bedtime story to guide him into slumber. As sad as these images make him, he must remember and hold on to his humanity.
One morning Addison encounters Ava (Alex Frnka) a young woman who is also alone and trying to survive, but with the added hardship of being pregnant.
As expected, theirs is an alliance hard earned. Understandably, neither immediately trusts the other, especially Ava.
Cinematographer Elizabeth Hodgman Hanks does good work here as she balances the look of the film, giving it a visual symmetry.
When Addison is alone, the lands seem barren as he rides through. The colors of the trees and green grass are there but we do not notice them.
Once Addison and Ava form their friendship, the sun shines brighter on the beautiful green landscapes. The trees seem taller, the water clearer, and the sound of the birds more heavenly.
The director and his cameraperson collaborate well, keeping a perfect tonal balance throughout.
Addison and Ava encounter three armed men. They keep their distance and try to stay one step ahead of them, as they are obviously a dangerous trio.
The men are brothers, and their leader of sorts is a man called Fish (Kevin E. West). He wants Ava. Fish promises Addison that, if he hands her over, they will allow him to live.
West gives a good performance and has a menacing presence. Fish spouts his vulgar ideas for a future “clan” with Ava as his concubine, like a madman television preacher conning his flock.
When Fish catches Addison alone, seeds of mistrust are planted regarding the mystery of who Ava might really be and what her past may hold. It is a good moment that will lead to a vicious final confrontation between all these lost souls.
Director Ron Hanks is not interested in doing a standard “After society fell…” thriller. The filmmaker sets his sights on loneliness and trust, keeping his piece interesting.
Hall does good work as Addison. The actor keeps the character’s youthful wonder about him while still making it believable that Addison is a skilled survivor.
Alexa Frnka’s Ava is a strong-willed young woman who knows how to keep herself alive and understands that being pregnant, she holds one of the keys to the future of mankind’s survival.
The two actors compliment one another’s performances, grounding them in a realistic way.
“After the End” is a film about the search for new beginnings. Finding a new chance in one another, Addison and Ava have an innate desire to endure.
Society has fallen but these two people exist as the shining hope that it will return.