The author of the upcoming Jodie Comer film explores motherhood in a post-apocalyptic London, where a woman’s water breaking causes a flood.
In the near future, at an undisclosed time, a woman goes into labor. As she experiences contractions, her residence in London is submerged in water. As she delivers her baby, it becomes evident that a catastrophic climate event of biblical proportions has begun. The city is flooded with water, and the woman takes her first post-birth bathroom break in a post-apocalyptic world before escaping to higher ground with her newborn in a car seat.
The tale of a new survival movie featuring British actress Jodie Comer begins. “The End We Start From” will be available in theaters across the UK and Ireland this Friday and boasts a talented cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Fry, Gina McKee, Nina Sosanya, and Mark Strong, alongside Comer.
Author Megan Hunter, who penned the remarkable 2017 novel, which served as her first, and upon which the film is centered, found the plot to be evident. “I have always possessed an apocalyptic imagination – I can recall even as a child dreaming about the ocean engulfing the planet,” she recalls.
At the age of 39, this individual, who had already given birth to two children in her 20s, began writing poetry and short stories about the experience of motherhood during her free time. One idea that emerged was a story about a woman giving birth in a futuristic world, where she must confront the reality of a climate crisis.
The timing of the film’s release coincides with dire warnings from scientists that warmer sea temperatures are fuelling freak weather events around the world. A study, published last week, found the world’s oceans absorbed record levels of heat in 2023.
Hunter began writing the book nearly nine years ago, cognizant of the fact that ocean levels were increasing. She explains, “I crafted a story about a future plagued by dystopia.” However, she acknowledges that the book has now taken on a more immediate and pertinent tone, unfortunately reflecting current events.
She intentionally connected the concept of a worldwide climate disaster with the personal and emotional journey of motherhood and the monumental impact of giving birth. “I purposely fused them into one event,” she explains. “So when her water breaks, the flood also arrives at the same time.” From then on, “the entire film is drenched and saturated with water.”
She aspires for the book and movie to add to the dialogue surrounding the climate crisis by showcasing stunning visuals of Comer’s character navigating through a submerged London, a tumultuous ocean, and harsh wilderness with her child. The goal is for the work to evoke emotion, captivate with its beauty, and inspire action.
The main theme of both the book and the film is the idea that our world is incredibly stunning, but unfortunately we are causing harm to it,” she explains. “It also explores the significance of the human connection to nature and how vital it is to our existence.”
Hunter’s preferred part in the movie involves Comer’s character, who purposely remains unnamed, slowly entering the ocean while nude and letting out a scream. This serves as a cathartic moment for her, releasing pent-up emotions that have been suppressed. The scene also symbolizes her return to the water, the location of her past trauma and loss, as her home is flooded.
However, there are also moments of lightheartedness where, similar to any new parent dealing with lack of sleep, colic, or a poonami, she must decide whether to laugh or cry over her circumstances – and she typically chooses laughter (or a mischievous cigarette).
The goal is for viewers to face the severity of the climate crisis in a more intimate and profound manner than what is typically portrayed in survival films.
The character of Comer is often uncertain and afraid, as she witnesses the senseless loss of loved ones in a chaotic world. There is no clear hero’s journey, but despite this, she manages to survive and care for her child.
One of the most original and powerful aspects of the film, which was “a very female-led” project directed by Mahalia Belo and adapted by Alice Birch (of Succession and Normal People fame), is the way it brings to life a key relationship in the book. And that is the bond that forms between Comer and another new mother, played by Katherine Waterston.
They encounter each other with their infants, separated from their previous acquaintances, and confronting unexpected difficulties. Hunter comments, “The manner in which they uplift one another, the way they find joy and solace in each other’s company, highlights the strength of female camaraderie in such a situation – a rarity in this genre.”
Fifteen infants were utilized to act as the character Zeb, showcasing the stages of breastfeeding, smiling, sitting up, crawling, and learning to stand. Meanwhile, those around him struggle with starvation, conflict, and death amidst the rain and floods. These significant moments in a child’s growth serve as a representation of time passing and allow Comer to depict a woman whose life is filled with joyful moments, despite the rising sea levels and intensifying crisis.
Hunter explains that he aimed to connect the urgency of the climate crisis to individual experiences, rather than just presenting it as information or statistics.
As the story progresses, it becomes evident that the main character’s vulnerability is heightened by her role as a mother, yet it also nourishes her spirit, provides her with resilience, and fuels her survival instinct. According to Hunter, “Being a parent motivates you to persevere, even when it seems impossible.” She must not only survive herself, but also ensure the well-being of her baby.
The film and book both have a strong focus on the idea of birth and the innocence of a baby, alongside themes of death and destruction. Despite the chaotic end of the world depicted, the message at the heart of the story is one of love, according to Hunter.
The bond between a mother and her child, the connection between her and her significant other, the friendship between companions, and the sense of community all contribute to people’s perseverance and resilience.
Simultaneously, she desires for The End We Start From to bring attention to the pressing need for prompt action on the climate crisis that our world is currently facing. Failure to do so may result in the demise of life as we currently know it.
“If we prioritize this as one of the most crucial matters for all of us, we will have the capability to implement necessary changes,” she explains. “Our reliance on excessive consumption, fossil fuels, and capitalism has brought us to a state of utter crisis. However, this is our current reality. We must begin our journey from this point and build a new future.”
The movie adaptation of The End We Start From will be released in theaters on January 19th. The novel, written by Megan Hunter, is published by Picador. To purchase a copy, visit bookshop.theguardian.com.
Several end-of-the-world novels have been made into movies, such as…
Cormac McCarthy’s novel “The Road” was published in 2006.
A man and his child travel through a devastated landscape in the United States, scavenging for sustenance as they head towards the ocean. The cause of the disaster remains unknown, but the land is scorched and the air is thick with ash. The absence of wildlife, marine life, and vegetation has forced some people to resort to cannibalism for survival.
The book received high praise from our critics, who called it a “fantastic novel” with a strong ability to influence, but the 2009 film version, featuring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee, only earned three stars.
Reword: “World Behind” by Rumaan Alam, published in 2020.
During their vacation on Long Island, a family of average income is interrupted by a black couple who assert ownership of the Airbnb they are renting. The couple explains that there is currently a power outage in New York, resulting in a lack of phone, television, and internet services. As they notice animals fleeing the area, the family slowly comes to the realization that there may have been a catastrophic event that has changed the world, and they are unaware of it.
Our reviewers described the novel as a “gripping suspense” that explores themes of social class, race, uncertainty, and the challenges of parenthood during a disaster. The 2023 Netflix adaptation, featuring Julia Roberts and Mahershala Ali, received a rating of four stars.
The Children of Men by PD James (1992)
The book, released in 1992, envisions a future England in the year 2021 where democracy has been eliminated due to a global infertility crisis lasting 27 years. The population is rapidly decreasing and the younger generation is revered while the elderly are viewed as a burden and may be forced to participate in group drownings. As power struggles ensue among childless leaders, it is revealed that one woman holds a valuable secret.
Our reviewers praised the book as a “fantastic example of dystopian sci-fi” and awarded the 2006 movie featuring Julianne Moore and Clive Owen four stars.