Recently released on All 4, The End of the F***ing World might have escaped your attention. It’d be a crying shame if it did, though, because this darkly comic road trip tale is a particular gem of a series and well worth your time.
A confident, even elegant piece of television from writer Charlie Covell, The End of the F***ing World must first and foremost be celebrated for its characters. Focused on two isolated teenagers who have always lived their lives in liminal spaces, the series functions as a nuanced character study; use of cleverly constructed cutscenes and some of the best voiceover sequences since The Handmaid’s Tale lend James and Alyssa a real, and rare, sense of interiority. It creates a certain intimacy with self-diagnosed psychopath James and the intense Alyssa, one that serves to emphasise the poignancy – and in some ways the tragedy – of the journey they undertake.
You get the sense, though, that this wouldn’t work anywhere near as well without its two leads, Jessica Barden and Alex Lawther (Black Mirror). The pair have an obvious chemistry, absolutely lighting up the screen; much as they’re both demonstrably talented enough screen presences to hold your attention on their own the few times when they’re separated, you can’t help but wish they find one another again quickly because of how magnetic Lawther and Barden are together. A huge part of why the series is so compelling is down to this duo, as they perfectly embody the façades their characters throw up, and then, in turn, shatter them into subtle neuroses and weeping vulnerabilities.
It’s an extremely stylishly made series too, with its polaroid-esque aesthetic serving to heighten the palpable sense of melancholy that already imbues the piece. Directors Jonathan Entwistle and Lucy Tcherniak deserve applause for their work on The End of the F***ing World, as do cinematographers Justin Brown and Ben Fordsman, each of whom was key to ensuring that substance was met with undeniable style and panache. Rounding the series off is Graham Coxon who provided the music that was so integral to the feel of the show, and once again helped elevate The End of the F***ing World into something special.
And, of course, it’s funny too – often extremely so. Bold, fearless and irreverent, it’s funny in exactly the way a show like this needs to be and more. It can be difficult to strike a balance between drama and comedy, but The End of the F***ing World is absolutely note perfect – aggressively nihilistic humour undercuts sentimentality and feeds into the darker moments, each aspect magnifying the other and proving to be more than the sum of their parts.
Ultimately, it’s a series that’s absolutely worth watching. With its acerbic wit, genuine emotional weight and a caustic character study, The End of the F***ing World is never anything short of deeply engaging. (Really, it’s a good thing that the whole series was made available at once, because a weekly wait between episodes would border on painful.) In the end, it’s the story of two damaged people who form a fleeting bond together and get something much greater from it – in a way perhaps not dissimilar to how you might take something greater away from it too.
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