Leave the World Behind

Leave the World Behind
Avoids the stereotypical trappings of apocalyptic films, instead focusing on how two families learn to co-exist after a cyberattack.

Leave the World Behind

Release Date: December 8, 2023
Runtime: 02:18
A family’s getaway to a luxurious rental home takes an ominous turn when a cyberattack knocks out their devices, and two strangers appear at their door.

Two families must deal with the repercussions of an apocalyptic cyber attack in . Amanda Sandford () spontaneously decides to book a weekend getaway at a Long Island beach house with her husband Clay () and two children Rose () and Archie (). However, in the middle of the night, the family is surprised by the sudden arrival of the house's owner George H. Scott () and his daughter Ruth (Myha'la) seeking refuge. It soon turns out that a cyberattack has wiped out the power of the United States and the two families have to deal with their distrust of each other and the possibility that there will be no return to normal.

Leave the World Behind Synopsis

Leave the World Behind is an apocalyptic thriller written and directed by Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot), based on the 2020 novel by Rumaan Alam. The film features an all-star cast that includes Julia Roberts, who is also one of the producers, Ethan Hawke, Mahershala Ali, and a brief appearance by as George's survivalist neighbour Danny. Not unlike Patricia Rozema's Into the Forest, the exact cause of the film's apocalyptic cyberattack is left to speculation. Instead, the plot is more about showing how such an event affects society and how people in general are awful beings.

My Thoughts on Leave the World Behind

Leave the World Behind establishes its themes early on when Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke's characters of Amanda and Clay Sandford first meet G.H. Scott and his daughter Ruth, played by Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Green Book) and Myha'la (Bodies Bodies Bodies, Dumb Money) respectively. Despite George calmly telling Amanda and Clay that he is the owner of the house, reinforced very passive-aggressively by Ruth, Amanda reacts with much suspicion and anger, revealing herself to be quite the stereotypical β€œKaren.” The film also insinuates that racism might be the cause of Amanada's reaction towards George and Ruth.

Leave the World is ultimately a film about these two families learning to co-exist during this apocalyptic event. There is a recurring thread in the film about Amanda and Clay's daughter Rose being upset that she doesn't have internet on her tablet, so she can watch the series finale of F.R.I.E.N.D.S.. While this may be a small worry in the scope of things, Rose explains that getting this closure would be some relief from the horrors that are happening.

Save for a single scene with Kevin Bacon as a shotgun-toting survivalist, Leave the World Behind avoids many of the stereotypical elements of these films. Instead, the film focuses solely on these two families learning to co-exist and make the best of a horrible situation. Of course, this includes a 56-year-old Julia Roberts attempting to dance to hip-hop, which I am just going to shrug off.

Trailer for Leave the World Behind

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.