Filmed in 2017 but held up by post-production issues until 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic preempted its release plans, Friend of the World has had a rough time of it. Which is, I suppose, fitting for a film about the end of the world.
Filmmaker Diane (Alexandra Slade) wakes up in a room full of dead people. Grabbing her stuff and fleeing the room she finds her way into a bunker inhabited by General Gore (Nick Young). He’s been holed up in the bunker for a long time. Long enough that he and sanity are not on speaking terms.
Now what may possibly be the last two people in the world are about to embark on a journey into the heart of darkness. Or at least the lower reaches of the bunker. Though what waits down there may be stranger than they can imagine.
Friend of the World was shot in black and white. One of the leads is black, the other white. What isn’t black and white is just what is going on within the film. Writer/director Brian Patrick Butler has described the film as “Beckett and Sartre meet John Carpenter and David Cronenberg” and I can certainly see what he means. It’s a strangely surreal piece, with a nonlinear plot accentuated with bizarre visuals and dialogue.
The film runs fifty minutes and is divided up into chapters. And for most of those fifty minutes Friend of the World makes it nearly impossible to tell what, if anything, is real. At varying points, the events seem to be everything from reality to an acid trip to Diane’s own film. Or an Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge like flight of a mind approaching death.
With characters that seem like archetypes at opposite ends of American society and a style that falls into the art/experimental film category, this won’t be for everyone. The way it leaves much of its events up to the viewer’s interpretation will also annoy some people as much as it will delight others. Some things, like the apparent cause of this apocalypse, left me thinking it couldn’t be real. Unless this was some Dr. Strangelove type reality. Which would explain both General Gore and the black and white photography.
For the right audience Friend of the World will be an excellent watch. It makes its premiere online August 15-16 at the 2020 Oceanside International Film Festival. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more information.