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When You Finish Saving the World Review | Sundance 2022

When You Finish Saving The World is saved only by its strong lead performances from Finn Wolfhard and Julianne Moore. It isn’t all bad, but it isn’t all good either.

When You Finish Saving The World

Finn Wolfhard and Julianne Moore play a mother (Evelyn Katz) and son (Ziggy Katz) who just can’t get along in When You Finish Saving The World. Their rift gets bigger and bigger as the film goes on. While both leads give outstanding performances, their characters are truly horrible and cringey. It’s not bad, but it’s missing something to allow viewers to fully connect with it.

Both mother and son are trying their hardest to replace each other rather than work on fixing their relationship. The two of them just make matters worse and worse the longer the movie goes on, and it is very hard to watch. Their actions are truly horrific at times, and completely cringe-worthy.

I couldn’t help but feel bad for the father/husband in all of this. He even states at one point that he is surrounded by narcists — and he isn’t wrong. He doesn’t get much screen time, but he is the most relatable of them all. 

I had high expectations for this movie considering everyone that is involved with it — and not just the cast. The people behind the scenes are very talented as well. There are certainly moments that made me laugh, and moments that made my heart swell — but the were too few and far between to completely suck me in. 

I think the majority of viewers are going to feel the same way. There is too much going on, and yet too little going on all at once. The film clocks in at ninety minutes and it feels quite a bit longer than that. When the end finally comes around, it is solid, but it is almost too little too late at that point.

The story that is told is an interesting one, and completely saved by the lead performances. Even though their characters are easy to despise, they pull it together in the end, offering a glimmer of hope. One of the best things about When You Finish Saving The World is the wonderful score and catchy tunes that Wolfhard’s character sings to his live stream audience of 20,000. Don’t worry, you won’t ever forget how many followers he has, because he mentions it every twenty minutes or so – insert eye roll here.

The disconnection between Ziggy and his mother feels relatable to an extent, but the story often struggles to find itself, and is often all over the place. As an opening night film, and with so many great names attached to it, I expected something amazing, and perhaps that was my fault. Because of this When You Finish Saving The World is a let down, and a disappointment. Kind of like how Ziggy and Evelyn feel about each other.

When You Finish Saving The World Jesse Eisenberg

Academy Award–nominee Jesse Eisenberg makes his feature film directorial debut and as a first feature, he does an okay job. There are a lot of cinematography and directing choices that work, even if they don’t come together into a cohesive piece.

It’s not bad necessarily, but it is extremely forgettable. This film doesn’t feel worthy of an opening slot at the Sundance Film Festival 2022. It can be assumed it earned its spot due to the star power involved with it, and not off the merits if the movie itself. The problem is most viewers will forget it even exists but the time the festival ends. 

You will always find me praising a movie that has a run time of less than two hours. The trend now seems to be trying to go as long as you can. When You Finish Saving The World actually might have benefitted from about 15 more minutes — if done right that is. 
 
The editing threw the pacing off and the unlikable leads make this one a struggle at times. If the point of this movie was to indeed hate Ziggy and Evelyn — their attitudes, this actions, and their treatment of others — then Wolfhard and Moore should be applauded, because that is exactly how the majority of the audience will feel. 
 
In the end they are sort of redeemed, but at that point it is too little too late. Still, the score shines and helps make the dull moments a little bit more exciting — so there is that. 
 
I rate this movie slightly more positive than negative because of the intriguing concept, the great performances, and the score. I wouldn’t recommend going out and paying to watch this movie, but if given the chance to stream it at home for free, why not?

Read more Sundance Film Festival coverage.

Rating: 3 out of 5

About When You Finish Saving the World

From his bedroom home studio, high school student Ziggy performs original folk-rock songs for an adoring online fan base. This concept mystifies his formal and uptight mother, Evelyn, who runs a shelter for survivors of domestic abuse.

While Ziggy is busy trying to impress his socially engaged classmate Lila by making his music less bubblegum and more political, Evelyn meets Angie and her teen son, Kyle, when they seek refuge at her facility. She observes a bond between the two that she’s missing with her own son, and decides to take Kyle under her wing against her better instincts.

When You Finish Saving The World played at the Sundance Film Festival 2022.