Everyone’s going to die
There’s more guts spilled in this movie than just about any other on this website. Only I’m not talking about the visceral and gory kind that leak out from a well-aimed machete-hole. No, this is the kind of spleen venting that comes when the main source of fear is being alone. We’ve likely all had them before – those chance meetings when you really connect with a stranger and soon find yourself swapping life stories. Despite the nihilistic promise of its title, Everyone’s Going to Die is a very sweet low-budget movie about these encounters. Looking at an intergenerational romance without romance bond, the writing/ production/ direction collective Jones’ debut film watches something like a very British version of Lost In Translation. Though it’s offbeat where the latter is po-faced, with isolation in the vast metropolis of Tokyo traded in for loneliness in a small seaside town.
At one point midway our down-on-her-luck lead Melanie (Tschirner) tells us ‘everyone finds their answers somewhere’. Hers come in the form of middle aged thug for hire Ray (Knighton). Following a chance encounter at a bad café (with a worse view) these two spend the day together pondering life, death, love and despair. But it’s not as kitchen-sink as it sounds. She may be unemployed, in a loveless engagement and unable to look good in a beaver costume, still, Melanie is rarely written or played for pity. Rather she spends more time gleefully shop-lifting, making fun of her companion and doing outlandish raptor impressions. Ray is a crook with a midlife crisis, visiting for work and family purposes. When he isn’t caught in ethical dilemmas we catch him looking dissatisfied in the mirror at his aging body and eating truly sad looking sandwiches. We also see him getting a fake tan, subjected to a gay chat line stuck on the channel in his hotel room and spilling milk on the crotch of his only trousers. Like Melanie he’s in a poor relationship (with his wife cutting her feelings of him into the backs of his shirts) and, as his fixation on the advert shows us, in serious need of somebody to talk to. He’s also, as we learn from a surprisingly poignant gag, got a lot in common with a watermelon.
However, despite its melancholy theme Everyone’s Going To Die pleasantly surprises with quirky comedy. Along with the accomplished witticisms, there’s constant lashings of slapstick and absurdity. These don’t always work – a potentially powerful but funny family scene, about expressing grief creatively, is done a disservice with the inclusion of a child that can talk backwards. Though for the most part it is deftly handled. The second half has some excellent dramatics when the duo let their guard down. In particular Tschirner has a fantastic single shot confessional in the car. It’s heart-breaking, relatable and frustratingly familiar. In contrast, a standout scene that sees Melanie and Ray play football on the beach with his wise-beyond-her-years niece (Duggan), is among the most genuinely joyous I’ve watched in some time. Both leads deliver strong performances and together emit an effortlessly strong chemistry. Tschirner makes Melanie vulnerable but never a victim and Knighton’s Ray is deadpan but not dull. Neither character is particularly honourable but they are always believable. Melanie and Ray seem like normal people and, like all people, they’re flawed.
Unfortunately, so are the first and final stretches of the film. In the beginning the pace and the tone don’t really work well, but these stumbles become a confident stride after our leads meet for a second time. However, without giving any spoilers, the conclusion is maybe a little too neatly wrapped up for the 80 minutes that have led to it. The redemption angle is amplified a little too loudly and I can’t help but wonder if the two partners (notable in their absence onscreen) are overly demonised. Yet these seem like reasonably small complaints considering I’d have gladly spent a lot longer hanging with Melanie and Ray. Like the sort of meeting it brilliantly captures, it’s great fun while it lasts, but feels like it ended too quickly.