Cult director, Abel Ferrara invites us to witness the day before everything will cease to be. In a large apartment high above the city lives a couple. They're in love. She's a painter, he's a successful actor. Just a normal afternoon - except that this isn't a normal afternoon, for them or anyone else. Because tomorrow, at 4:44 am, give or take a few seconds, the world will come to an end far more rapidly than even the worst doom sayer could have imagined. The final meltdown will come, not without warnings, but with no means of escape. There will be no survivors. As always, there are those who, as their final cigarette is being lit and the blindfold tightened, will still hope against hope for some kind of reprieve. For a miracle. Not our two lovers. They - like the majority of the Earth's population - have accepted their fate; the world is going to end.
Willem Dafoe and newcomer Shanyn Leigh star as a Manhattan couple, who, upon discovering the world is soon to end, spend their last few days in search of a few moments of happiness, satisfaction and fulfilment.
Released back in 2011 4:44 Last Day on Earth significantly predates the 2012 Steve Carell movie that deals with the same essential concept and yet whilst watching Dafoe and Leigh I could not help but find myself wishing for Carell and Knightley instead. Where Seeking a Friend for the End of the World compliments the terror and emotional depth of ones last days on earth with some quirky romantic comedy 4:44 often feels as lost as its characters, eventually turning a infinitely deep and emotive scenario into somewhat of a hollow tableaux.
Very reminiscent of a stage play there is something undeniably intense and intriguing about the simplicity of 4:44, the highly emotive – and often over-acted – interchanges between the lead characters giving a raw, unhindered edge to the tone of the film. Yet, instead of feeling like the crisp and sizzling moments before the thunder storm breaks 4:44 Last Day on Earth feels more like a disappointingly grey dawn, unable to evoke the drama and intensity that its conception promises and instead, to paraphrase my favourite piece of Elliot poetry, ends not with a bang, nor a whimper, but the damp snuffing out of the remaining embers of last night’s fire – the bright core of life left to fizzle and disappear.
Brief views of the heads of religious movements and other spiritualists attempt to give further depth and insight into the questions one inevitably asks at the end of the world: “What next?” “Does Hell exist?” and “What is the meaning of life?” And yet their addition only detracts from the emotional turmoil supposedly experienced by the lead characters, their brief time on screen raising questions such as: “What was the point in that?” and “Who was that guy?”
Leigh and Dafoe do their best and at times their performances, though constantly at the height of the emotional scale, work well within the intensity of the scenario, it is the lacklustre script and quickly declining story that prevent the film from ever really taking off.
Ultimately the film holds a great deal of promise, however the graphic appearance of Dafoe’s manhood coupled with the sights of singers in bars woefully attending their duties as though it were just another Wednesday leave 4:44 Last Day on Earth feeling insipid and infertile, all talk and no trousers, so full of potential and yet in the end, so dull.