The End of the F***ing World review: Brilliant, black, bingeworthy
PUBLISHED: 00:27 27 January 2018 | UPDATED: 14:57 30 January 2018
It’s the most fun that’s been squeezed out of teenage angst since The Inbetweeners. This binge-worthy dark comedy about two teens against the world has it all: tragedy, comedy, love, hate, bad parenting and, ahem, a killer soundtrack. SPOILER FREE.
The End of the F***ing World pairs two misfits together on a road trip across England, delving into teenage angst, unlikely romance and, er, homicidal tendencies.
The eloquently titled series has now started streaming on Netflix, having almost passed under the radar when airing on Channel 4 towards the tail end of last year (well, maybe it didn’t but this was a journey of discovery for yours truly).
Akin to the brash, sweary older sibling of John Green’s fabulous The Fault in Our Stars, The End of the F***ing World (TEOTFW) is a fantastic two and a bit hours of television, broken down into eight 20-minute episodes, making it beyond easy to devour in a lone sitting.
Green’s excellent novel – turned film – took teenage cancer patients, one with a terminal diagnosis, one in remission, and swept them into a sweet whirlwind of a love story, delicately gliding through the subject matter in an engaging, relatable and touching way. The End of the F***ing World takes two teenage misfits, one rebellious with a troubled home life, the other thinking he’s a serial killer who wants to murder her. Yes: I know what you’re thinking: ‘similarities? What similarities?!’
Based on Charles S. Forman’s graphic novel series of the same name, sans asterisks, TEOTFW is a dark, delightful comedy that takes James (Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (Jessica Barden) away from their miserable home lives and away together, embarking on an increasingly outlandish road trip where their money runs out and their problems stack up.
At times it’s bleak with some pretty ghastly material on show – one scene in the gents comes to mind – while the two lead characters could come across almost as caricatures (especially Alyssa) if it wasn’t for the prowess of the fine cast and Charlie Covell’s accomplished script which throws comedic light over the darkness. The series sucks humour out of places where you’d never think to look for laughs and proves richly entertaining and incredibly convincing throughout.
As with The Fault in Our Stars, TEOTFW tells a sweet, engaging tale – OK, a little bloody and explicit here and there – that masterfully handles its surreal concept in a remarkably relatable manner, only helped further by an, ahem, killer soundtrack, satisfying character arcs and two tremendous lead performances.
James purposefully scolds himself to “feel something” in the opening moments of episode one, kills stray animals for kicks and then tells us rather bluntly: “I’m James, I’m 17 and I’m pretty sure I’m a psychopath.”
For – initially – unspecified reasons, he has a difficult relationship with his dad and has decided he wants to kill something bigger. Enter, Alyssa.
Jessica Barden is an utter revelation as Alyssa. She’s rebellious. She’s sweary. She’s blunt. She’s rude, rage-filled and fuelled and as full of teenage angst as they come. Yet Barden embodies her with such life and is so convincing - doubly so in Alyssa’s more vulnerable moments – sparked by her topsy-turvy tortured home-life that she’s so desperate to escape. Enter, James.
James pretends to fall in love with Alyssa so that he can get close enough to her to scratch his murderous itch, she allows him to, realising she now has someone to escape with.
They each offer a solution to the other, therefore beginning one of the most peculiar love stories you’re ever likely to see. He’s near catatonic and cut-off, she’s bratty and brash, but together they have a genuine chemistry and seamlessly fling your emotions from pillar to post, taking you on an emotional rollercoaster ride: it’s down-right disturbing, genuinely funny, tragically heart-tugging and soul-warming all at the same time.
As protagonists, the two nilhistic teens drive us (both have narrating duties which works out as one of the series’ best decisions and gives us an insight into both their inner and outer lives) through a surreal and darkly comic journey mixing the essence Hazel and Augustus, Romeo and Juliet and Thelma and Louise. Yes, it’s out there, but TEOFTW is anchored with a very realistic, truly wonderful exploration of its angsty teen leads as they fall in love and discover themselves – with some glorious mayhem thrown in for good measure.
* The End of the F***ing World is now streaming on All4 and Netflix UK.