TV review: The End of the F***ing World, Channel 4
- Brian Donaldson
- 23 October 2017
Edgy adaptation of Charles Forsman's graphic novel about two teenagers who form a close, possibly murderous, bond
'I'm James. I'm 17. And I'm pretty sure I'm a psychopath.' As far as opening lines to a TV series go, this is the kind of doozy that simply guarantees further viewing. But after watching eight parts comprising a far from insurmountable 160 minutes of screen time, the initial barnstorming promise is frittered away, leaving us with a perfectly enjoyable if ultimately less risk-taking venture than it first appeared.
Taken from the 2013 graphic novel by Charles Forsman, The End of the Fucking World's angsty action tilts from the claustrophobic school and home lives of James (Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (Jessica Barden) to become an energetic road movie as these ill-starred companions attempt to break free from their psychological and environmental shackles. Accepting and embracing an outsider status, they hesitantly stagger towards forging some sort of permanent bond: except James' designs towards Alyssa are more murderous than amorous.
Forsman has previously spoken of 1973 movie Badlands being firmly in his mind when he first conceived of his story, and there are also elements of Thelma and Louise and Natural Born Killers as the pair flee from the (less than efficient) authorities when a period of squatting in a well-stocked penthouse goes horrifically wrong. The Peep Show-esque point-of-view technique where the duo's thoughts help nudge the narrative forward is utilised here to some degree of success. But the habit of hearing a thought immediately prior to it being spoken out loud is overdone and wears thin very quickly.
In the final analysis, The End of the Fucking World reflects poorly on parents with all the mums and dads on show having damaged their kids by abandoning them in one form or another. While there's little that could have been improved upon the central performances (Lawther has 'the new Ben Whishaw' stamped all over him), overblown editing choices (the constant quickfire snippets of blood-soaked flashbacks also get on the nerves), and dialogue, that's not as hilarious as it thinks it is, dilute what could have been a moving exploration on how difficult it can be for some teenagers to escape the darker edges of a painful upbringing.
The End of the Fucking World starts on All4, Tue 24 Oct.