Filmed during the pandemic, Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones’ How It Ends ignited Sundance with its heartfelt script, candid acting, and timely subject matter. The film details Liza’s (Zoe Lister-Jones’) last day on earth before a predicted asteroid strike wipes out humanity, capitalizing on the lens of dark comedy to articulate moments of joy and humor in an otherwise apocalyptic world. How It Ends’ standout feature takes the form of Liza’s younger self (Cailee Spaeny). Through a series of confrontations with lovers, friends, and family members, Liza’s younger self guides her towards forgiveness and compassion, allowing for a final cathartic reckoning on the eve of earth’s doom.
In an era profoundly altered by COVID, our own apocalyptic reality, it’s hard not to resonate with Liza. Through self-reflection and imperfect dialogue, she fosters a greater degree of connection with both herself and the outside world. Lister-Jones achieves this balance by carefully interspersing moments of intense emotional reconciliation with chance encounters marked by joy and clarity, a thematic flow which nurtures the film’s overlapping realities of pain and healing. This dynamic framing reminds us that no one feeling exists in isolation, inviting us to embrace growth and vulnerability in the midst of a shifting world.
One of the film’s particularly tender moments situates Liza sitting side by side with her younger self on the beach. As waves crest in the background, Liza acknowledges that no one ever loved her as purely or authentically as her younger self did, extending gratitude to a relationship which propelled her through life’s best and worst moments. In an interview with Sundance, Lister-Jones reflected on making the film during COVID, expressing that she and her husband Daryl Wein “started to do a lot of inner child work and were trying to have these dialogues with our most vulnerable selves,” a notion most fully embodied in this beach scene. Although inner child archetypes often feel cliché, Lister-Jones renders this relationship with such raw affection that it uplifts Liza’s younger self, providing an avenue for growth unhindered by nostalgia (even in the face of the apocalypse).