When You Finish Saving The World movie review (2023)

Evelyn’s teenage son Ziggy (Finn Wolfhard) is awkward and arrogant (a terrible combination, though not that out of the ordinary). He has no friends and lives for his social media channel, where he performs songs on live stream to a worldwide audience. He keeps track of subscribers and upvotes and likes, throwing it in the face of anyone who dares not take him seriously. His parents, played by Moore and the wonderful Jay O. Sanders, are intellectuals with slightly derisive pretensions. Ziggy’s father asks his son about the music he writes and barely waits for the answer before warning him not to play “rhythm and blues” because “Amiri Baraka Ziggy doesn’t know who Amiri Baraka is and doesn’t care. Evelyn wonders what happened to her little “ally” son, the kid she took to marches who used to sing protest songs on his little plastic guitar. Ziggy treats her with open contempt. She tolerates it and cries in the car while driving to work.

A little bit of this goes a long way, and there’s a lot of it in “When You’re Done Saving the World.” When Ziggy falls in love with Lila (Alisha Boe), a politically minded girl at school, he decides to “get political” in order to impress her, or at least be able to keep up with her in conversation. Lila is incredibly tolerant of this strange boy who follows her around and tries to “be political” with her. Meanwhile, Evelyn redirects her thwarted mother’s love to Kyle (Billy Bryck), who recently moved into the shelter with his mother. Kyle is a good kid, polite and responsible, everything Ziggy is not. Kyle works in a workshop and he enjoys it, but Evelyn can’t hide her middle-class liberal-twisted horror at this job and starts babbling about how he might get a scholarship to Oberlin, even though he clearly doesn’t want to don’t have it. What’s wrong with working on cars, Evelyn? Evelyn’s blind spot again. She thinks it would be a “waste”. Her behavior verges on downright creepy, just as Ziggy’s behavior towards Lila borders on creepy.

The whole movie is about projecting your own needs onto other people, seeing in them what you want to see, or seeing in them a distorted mirror of your own hopes for yourself – ideals at war with reality. Evelyn takes care of the battered women at the shelter, but can’t talk to them without condescension. She works to help others, but cannot get in touch with her son. Ziggy says he wants to learn about politics, but only to make money from it on his live stream. He has a platform. He could save the world!

Is it satire? It is hard to say. The characters are broadly drawn and mostly broadly acted, so much so that the film plays like a skit about ignorant liberals. Lila and Kyle are the only characters who seem connected to the world and themselves. Their confused, almost embarrassed reactions when dealing with Ziggy and Evelyn’s projections onto them are understandable.

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