- Leave the World Behind is an unconventional apocalypse movie that centers on the characters and their relationships rather than gratuitous violence or destruction.
- The ending of the movie differs from the book, leaving the resolution ambiguous and defying the expectations of a conventional disaster flick.
- The potential sequel could explore further character development and the evolving dynamics between the Sandfords and Scotts in a world that continues to crumble.
End-of-the-world movies are nothing new. Essentially, they involve a character learning about a catastrophe, taking their family to survive, and fighting off other desperate people, culminating in the world ending or the crisis being averted. Rinse and repeat. However, Netflix’s Leave the World Behind is different in one key aspect. It places the characters and their story ahead of the crumbling world around them.
Based on the 2020 book by Rumaan Alam, Leave the World Behind tells the story of a vacationing family on Long Island as a cyberattack unravels modern society. Receiving positive critical feedback, the movie was the number one title on Netflix during its release week. Fans left reeling from that ending are undoubtedly clamoring for a sequel, so could we see one? There is no sequel to the book, and currently no plans to make another movie.
However, the success of Leave the World Behind, with its intriguing easter eggs and mysteries, could motivate the creative team to continue the story. The actual apocalypse has barely begun by the film’s end, so what will happen to society? Let’s look at what we might see if a sequel to Leave the World Behind is ever greenlit.
Leave the World Behind Is an Unconventional Apocalypse Movie
For a quick refresher, what happens in this unconventional apocalypse flick? Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke star as couple Amanda and Clay Sandford, who rent a vacation home on Long Island with their kids Archie and Rose for the weekend. While there, they notice a series of odd events. An oil tanker ship runs aground on the beach; their phones lose signal, and a man at the local grocery store stocks up on supplies.
Director Sam Esmail has responded to the ongoing conspiracy theories surrounding the Netflix apocalyptic thriller, Leave the World Behind.
Things grow tense when the owner of their rental home, G.H. Scott (Mahershala Ali), and his daughter Ruth (Myha’la), which is a major change from the book, show up at the house and ask to stay. Amanda distrusts G.H. and Ruth, though the families have no choice but to try to get along as they ride out the strange events.
The white Sandfords and Black Scotts are wary of each other, which the film uses as a commentary on modern race relations. The two families manage to forge a semi-cordial relationship as the cataclysm continues. G.H. theorizes that the attack was designed to destabilize the United States, and with no clear perpetrator, people would turn on each other and, eventually, the government. Just as the worst unfolds, the film cuts out, and that’s where we’re left.
How the Ending Differs From the Book
Let’s talk about the ending of Leave the World Behind. G.H. and Clay leave to find medicine for a sick Archie, as Amanda and Ruth stay behind to look for Rose after she runs away. This is where G.H. shares his hypothesis about what’s really going on. Back at the house, Amanda and Ruth witness bombs detonating in nearby New York City.
Meanwhile, Rose has stumbled into a neighbor’s bunker with food, water, and electricity. Naturally, she pops in the DVD of Friends‘ series finale, which she was cut off from finishing when the cell towers first died. And that’s how the story ends, with “I’ll Be There For You” blasting over the end credits. Besides Rose, there’s no sense of a real resolution for any characters.
This differs from the book, in which Rose gathers supplies from the neighbors’ bunker and brings them back to her family. The filmmakers chose to deliberately leave the movie’s ending more ambiguous. While likely frustrating viewers craving a solid conclusion, it also upends what we expect from conventional disaster flicks.
In most movies like this, we expect that the characters will come together as a family by the end after learning what’s happening to the world and if they can or cannot stop it. G.H. does have a theory, but it’s unproven. Neither family is together at the end, so no one knows how the other group is doing. We need a sequel to see everyone reunite, but beyond that, what’s next?
Further Character Development for Leave the World Behind’s Characters
We don’t see the worst of society crumble in the movie, as the film only shows the beginning stages. It’s hinted that the big cities are falling apart, but most of the action is confined to the rental house by the beach. We don’t see the worst ramifications of the catastrophe until the very end, with the bombing of New York. So how will that affect the already tenuous relationship between the Sandfords and Scotts? It’s possible that the tragedy could bring them together, as they’ve been together since things first went south. In times of uncertainty, we sometimes take comfort in the people who are there with us and are experiencing the same things.
At the same time, these characters in Leave the World Behind are still essentially strangers. They’ve only known each other for a few days. If things go south and resources are scarce, each family will naturally prioritize their own. Though the Sandfords and Scotts have formed a semi-truce, their lives haven’t yet changed all that much. The only issue for them at the house is no cellular communication.
Things are going to get a lot worse. And what do people do when things get worse? They turn on each other. Of course, they may continue to work together, as there is strength in numbers. But how likely is that, given how rocky their relationship started? If they were this distrustful when the world was “normal,” how would things go when everything falls apart? This could be the most interesting aspect of a sequel, as the tension between families could rise throughout the film to an ultimate breaking point.
The strength of Leave the World Behind comes in its centering of the characters over any gratuitous violence or destruction, even if most of their stories are left open-ended by the time the credits roll. Most movies would place their main cast directly in the middle of whatever’s going on outside, with the audience with them by extension.
Here, the viewers can shelter with the two families in their house, away from the worst of it all. But they’ll have to face the outside world eventually. When they do, let’s hope they remember each other’s humanity first as they try to make sense of whatever’s going down outside. As previously mentioned, a Leave the World Behind sequel is far from official, but continuing to focus on the two families as the world deteriorates even further could make for an exciting direction. Leave the World Behind is streaming now on Netflix.
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