Leave the World Behind

4 out of 10

Two families standing in the middle of a road. A deer in the background.

Leave the World Behind comes from Sam Esmail, the man that brought us Mr. Robot. It includes callbacks to that show and possibly takes place in the same universe.

Leave the World Behind follows a pretentious family on a weekend getaway that is impulsively planned by Amanda (Julia Roberts). Along with her is her rather agreeable husband Clay (Ethan Hawke) and two kids – Archie (Charlie Evans) and Rose (Farrah Mackenzie). The daughter just wants to see the finale of Friends. The family rents a fancy house on Long Island for the weekend and is enjoying their time there.

After the family witnesses something unreal at the beach, they retire to the house for a nice BBQ dinner. As Amanda and Clay are winding down after the kids go to bed, there is a knock on the door. At the door are two people, G.H. Scott (Mahershala Ali) and his daughter Ruth (Myha’la). They claim to be the owners of the house, Amanda is suspicious.

As the night and the next day go on, even stranger things start happening.

Leave the World Behind is what happens when one takes a bunch of conspiracy theories from the internet and tries to weave them into a coherent movie. It never really works out. There are some big ideas introduced in the movie, such as racial preconceptions, over reliance on technology, the end of the world as we know it, government collapse and civil unrest. But, writer/director Esmail is not able to bring it all together into a consistent movie. The only thing consistent about the movie is the daughter’s desire to see the end of the TV show Friends.

This movie suffers from faux-intellect and a heavy sense of self-seriousness. Or more succinctly: It takes itself so seriously it is boring. Much like the character Amanda, all of the pretentiousness is used to mask a hollow emptiness at the core.

The choice of using zooms instead of dolly pushes gives the movie a retro feel. The cinematography and the odd angles all work together with the score to create a sense of dread and tension. Having said that, the cinematography often screams “Hey, I just graduated from film school, look at all these cool things I can do with the camera.” The cinematography is often quite distracting in Leave the World Behind – adding to the pretentiousness of the movie.

There is one great thing about the movie and it is the score by Mac Quayle. The score is perfectly done and really adds a layer of uneasiness to the visuals and in turn creates a bunch of dread throughout.

The movie is effective at building tension. Unfortunately, the movie never pays off. The movie goes out of its way to whisper “Something is going to happen. Get ready to have something to happen.” And then… Nothing.

Mahershala Ali is fantastic in this movie. His performance is captivating.

Leave the World Behind runs for two hours and 21 minutes. That is unacceptable. This movie could have been an episode in a TV sci-fi anthology series. At more than two hours, this movie stretches its premise too thin. Making things worse, there is not a single likable character in the whole movie.

Not to mention the ending of the movie in which the filmmakers show exactly what is going on. The ending would have worked much better had the filmmakers left what was happening to the imagination of the audience. Instead they have no faith that the audience can draw their own conclusions.

I do not recommend Leave the World Behind.

Streamed on Netflix.


TVs and radios only work when characters are away and not there to hear important plot points.

The script awkwardly throws the word “fuck” throughout the movie.

The Tesla bit is pretty awesome.

The dancing, it was so cringy.