Leave The World Behind : A Review

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Leave the World Behind is a 2023 screen adaptation based on a novel written by Rumaan Alam, streaming on Netflix. Rumaan is an American writer known for his novels that tells a background of class, race and lifestyle. The novel has been nominated for the National Book Award in the year 2020. While the movie sets out a subtle psychological thriller that sinks their audience little by little in fear of an apocalyptic world.

Rose Sandford stares into the screen of her favorite sitcom.

The Beginning of Leave The World Behind

The scene opens with Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke early in the morning. Julia as Amanda, gave a sudden plan of getaway for the family into a remote sub-urban house she booked online. As Amanda opens the curtain to let the sunlight in, her husband’s awake. Amanda explained while stares back and forth to her husband and into the window and said : 

…I saw all these people starting their day with such tenacity. Such verve.

All in an effort to make something of themselves. 

Make something of our world.

I felt so lucky to be a part of that.

But then, I remembered… what the world is actually like. And I came to a more accurate realization.

I f*cking hate people.” 

And the music blares as the title went in. 

Amanda and Clay (Ethan Hawke) have two children, Rose and Archie. Their children symbolise young generation of a middle-upper class that’s dependent to their gadgets. Rose and her obsession of movies, particularly the Friends sitcom in her tablet. Archie stalking his crush on social media. A typical of the family pack from Brooklyn on the road headed to a fancy upscale house in Long Island. 

Cinematography of Leave The World Behind

The panning for some of the scene uses spinning movement to induce panic and suspense as early as the signs of a wreak havoc begins. 

The director, Sam Esmail created an atmosphere of anxiety with tracking  movement that sometimes can cross from indoor to outdoor set with a crane extension of the camera or what we familiar with jimmy jib. These shots were known to a few film critiques as the style of Hitchcockian. The aim is to build up or projecting the intensity in crucial scenes. 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – DECEMBER 04: Sam Esmail attends Netflix’s “Leave The World Behind” New York Premiere at Paris Theater on December 04, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/FilmMagic,)

Sending an apocalyptic message, the movie which also produced by Barack and Michele Obama,  has successfully plant silent paranoia to the audiences. The theme of the movie raised the hair from the back of our neck since it resonates with what we view on the news on daily basis.

Tod Campbell, the cinematographer, also initiate the idea on how the picture will be taken on certain angles. A few critiques mentioned how some of the shots were made to feel like it came from a satelite, lurking to the earth. A sense of world conspiracies and spy, but indistinct. 

The characters in a claustrophobic world

The suspense started when Mahershalla Ali as G.H Scott showed up on the front door with his daughter, Ruth played by Myha’la. Since then, the intricate conversation begins. 

The minute Amanda saw both of them, she immediately filled with trust issue. Starting with G.H claiming to be the owner of the residence. Not just questioned on G.H’s abrupt arrival in the middle of the night, Amanda also despised his cheeky, blunt daughter. In the following scenes, Amanda continues to have tensed feeling. This drives the audience to suspect a other-rooted conflict between these two different family race. On the other hand, she was having second thoughts noticing their fancy car and high class appearances, aside from her husband securing opinions about G.H and her daughter.

Clay opening the door for the first time to G.H and Ruth.

Things went bizarre with a mixture of chemistry from there. The plot risen with drama of being sabotaged and trapped. The suspense remains delicate and unpredictable. What were they supposed to do? Staying or leaving the stagnant situation in that house ? The only way they can find out what is really happening out there is risking to go outside of the house.

On some circumstances the chemistry that runs between Amanda, G.H and Ruth were shifting up and down. Switching between love and hate and increasingly engulfed with hope and desperation. 

Ruth, Amanda and G.H in the living room.

Rose, The unexpected one in Leave The World Behind

Played by Farrah Mackenzie, Rose Sandford seem like a cameo character in this movie. Somehow, her character were seen based on her melancholy face and childish tone that speaks louder than the context of her words. 

Rose in the forest at the back of the house her family rents

Rose’s role turns out to be the first witness that signals hazard in her scenes, but their parent didn’t really take her words as crucial as it should. Her brother dismissed her comments and perspective by joking about it. Coming from a 13-year old girl, Rose is a snoozed, nonchalant alarm that’s surprisingly carefree. Her philosophy forms from her worries after remembering one episode of the West Wing. Rose said that a man who wait for God to help him ended up with nothing because he refused to make a single move himself. 

A different take on thriller genre

Usually, average psychological thriller have strong direction towards nervousness. Leave the world behind have different arrangement. It was more of a realistic view of dealing with signs of a disaster. Despite the staggering visual effects of planes, or tank ship, the horror remains thin and mildly progressing until the end. 

The movie brings a stretch from a regular bright day, to a nightmare. Aside from the anxiety, the audience also swims with good knowledges on a specific emergency situation. It could be an option as a family movie if minors were excluded. The two hour and twentyone minute-motion picture is rated R for foul languages, sexual content, drug use, and violence. 

Author: Fraya

A writer and entrepreneur with profound interest in humankind research and insights. An avid coffee drinker and book hoarder. Hours and days spent in Jakarta.

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