That much is clear right from the beginning of Abel Ferrara's new film, 4:44 Last Day on Earth. The powers that be have not heeded the warnings of scientists, whose predictions of certain doom if the effects of global warming are not reversed have now come true. At 4:44 AM, give or take a few seconds, the world will end.
Some panic and take to the streets. Other gather at the Vatican to spend their last moments in prayer. Others commit suicide, unable to take the tension and uncertainty of Earth's final hours. The citizens of New York, however, soldier on. There is the occasional suicide, but as in the wake of 9/11, New Yorkers band together to face the end, spending their last moments with family and friends, saying goodbye to life as they know it.
In the case of Cisco (Willem Dafoe) and Skye (Shanyn Leigh), they have chosen to face death just as they have lived their life - together in their apartment, continuing life as usual.
|Willem Dafoe as Cisco and Shanyn Leigh as Skye embrace on the floor in Abel Ferrara’s 4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH. Copyright: So Suave LLC, an IFC Films release.|
It is never revealed how anyone knows that the world will end at 4:44, nor how scientists were able to pinpoint such a specific time. But the details aren't as important as the relationship between the two main characters, which remains woefully underdeveloped. Skye has two modes; crazy and crazier, occasionally taking a break from painting to have a breakdown before returning to her work. Cisco wanders around talking to himself like a schizophrenic, mumbling random thoughts and philosophies that are frequently indecipherable. For a film that asks us to spend an hour and a half with these two characters alone in an apartment for the end of the world, it keeps us frustratingly at arm's length.
|Willem Dafoe as Cisco and Shanyn Leigh as Skye on the roof in Abel Ferrara’s 4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH.|
Copyright: So Suave LLC, an IFC Films release.
It's a shame because the film is rife with promise. It's build around a solid, relevant idea that plays off audience expectations and our national fascination with the end of times. Unfortunately it just doesn't add up to a satisfying whole. It remains frustratingly inert, every bit as trapped in its own lack of directions as its characters are within their four walls. It's attempts at philosophizing fall flat, and are more muddled and opaque that profound and revelatory. There is a lot of territory to be covered in the end of the world, lots of emotional layers to be explored and and examined. 4:44 doesn't do that. It coasts along on an undercooked idea that never gets off the ground. It's hard to imagine the real end of the world being this dull.
GRADE - ★★ (out of four)
4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH | Directed by Abel Ferrara | Stars Willam Dafoe, Shanyn Leigh, Natasha Lyonne | Not rated | Opens today, 3/23, in New York and Los Angeles.