“The End of Us” is a film that fights against the constraints of its production. Filmed mid-pandemic, the film tells the story of a couple that breaks up just as quarantine begins. Having nowhere else to go, Nick Boal (Ben Coleman, in his debut), must continue to live with his girlfriend, Leah Russo (Ali Vingiano, also in her debut), while they try to move on from their breakup. It’s a clever premise that should have played out well despite the pandemic’s filming restrictions and low-budget independent nature of the production in general. Unfortunately, the narrative isn’t quite strong enough to power the movie through such setbacks.
This is a film that feels like it should be very emotional — breakups are painful events, especially when it’s the end of a long-term relationship. Forcing the characters to reckon with this dramatic shift — in both their individual lives and their dynamic with each other — by confining them to the same space for months on end is an excellent setup for generating a big, emotional revelation from them. But, “The End of Us” never capitalizes on this.
The principal issue with the film is its tone. “The End of Us” seems like it wants to lean more towards being a romantic comedy than a drama at times. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — a romantic comedy in which the couple ends up breaking up would actually be a welcome change of pace from most others. Sadly, the film isn’t quite funny enough to pull itself far toward the rom-com direction. Then, it falters as a drama in its inability to fully explore the relationship between Leah and Nick.
A great deal of this issue stems from the film’s rushed exposition. Leah comes home from work in the opening scene and almost immediately breaks up with Nick. It’s unexpected to both Nick and the viewer because in the few minutes they are initially on-screen together, it seems as though nothing is wrong. It works as a shocking opening, but it hinders the film later on as we have no frame of reference for the couple’s dynamic pre-breakup. Was their relationship always bad? What were its good aspects? How long have their troubles been going on? We don’t know.
And given enduring COVID-19 restrictions, the filmmakers did not have an opportunity to shoot scenes of the actors out doing things in crowded public places. But still, there could have been a few more scenes of them at home to show how their relationship worsened to the point of breaking up. Tidbits about the characters’ histories are sprinkled throughout the film, but seeing more of them as a couple would have added a lot more depth to their relationship and made the audience empathize with each character more thoroughly.
There are some positive aspects to “The End of Us,” most of which surround the two central performances. Coleman and Vingiano are both very charming, and they handle the dynamic of two people trying to be civil just after a breakup very well. Some of their lines were improvised, which is clearly apparent given that they sound more natural than most of the written dialogue.
Overall, though, “The End of Us” doesn’t live up to its timely, promising premise. Some of its faults can be attributed to the nature of its production, but its weak script ultimately fails to fulfill its potential. Coleman and Vingiano do as well as they can to flesh out the central relationship, but most of the emotional beats fall flat. Without that strong dramatic component at the center, “The End of Us” leaves the audience with nothing but a quarantine time capsule.
Daily Arts Writer Mitchel Green can be reached at email@example.com.