Imagine my delight when, smack dab in the middle of another if my frequent Apocalyptic/Post Apocalyptic fiction binges, a new movie came out called Goodbye World. In it, friends of a young family (wife, husband and daughter, no less) who live off grid descend on their compound after a global upheaval. The general assessment that the story was basically The Big Chill for a younger generation played out in the first days of a major crisis, sounded just fine to me.
The film did poorly at the box office, so the DVD released shortly afterward. Before very long, I got my chance to see the movie.
First, let me say this. Goodbye World is no Big Chill. That earlier generation had far better music, for one thing! The Chill cast were better actors, and presented more likable characters than the Goodbye cast. The most dysfunctional “Chiller” seemed far more competent and engaging than the steadiest “Goodbyer.” Of course, the Chillers dealt with growing old, while the Goodbyers faced The End of the World As We Know It. So yeah, a bit more pressure on the latter!
Mainly, the most disappointing element for me proved to be the off-the-grid compound. I’d imagined seeing something similar to our “homestead,” because I forgot: this is Hollywood’s vision of our lifestyle. In the movie, we’re shown what off-the-grid would be like for a young, wealthy suburbanite who had a lot of money to throw at such a project. The owners’ attitudes revealed a similar mindset. They apparently had the cash to pay someone to build their compound, but they lacked the basic philosophical outlook or temperament to make such an operation work on a sustainable level. While it’s plausible that one’s outlook might change over time, allowing rifts in the family to develop, at least one member of the couple showed very few signs of ever having bought into the lifestyle at all.
As the owners revealed each aspect of their off-the-grid home, I couldn’t help picking holes in the operation. They didn’t appear to have any back up for essential functions. Sure, they had their own well, but it depended on an electric pump to draw the water. As reliable as solar electricity (their main power source) may be, I’d feel very uncomfortable depending on it to provide drinking water. Where’s the hand pump, at least as a back up? Redundancy, back up, emergency workaround. These are keys to reliable sustainability, not fancy, labor-saving devices that depend on an uninterrupted source of power.
Much of the conflict centers around a stash of medicines kept within a crucial temperature range in an electric refrigerator. How sustainable does that sound? I believe someone comments at one point in the narrative that whatever benefit the stash provides will be extremely short lived, even in optimal conditions. At least, I hope they did.
I don’t suppose we can expect Hollywood to write authentically on this topic. It’s obvious on so many levels, right up to the final scene, in which someone uses a gas powered rototiller to turn a garden plot so small, one could probably have turned it by hand in less time than it took to gas up and start the rototiller! Supposedly, they’re persevering after society has collapsed, but they’re somehow doing it with plenty of gasoline.
The movie struck me as an upper income urbanite’s vision, not a realistic portrayal of a possibility. On the other hand, I have little doubt that such homes do exist. And, should the world come crashing down, who’s to say whether we’re actually better prepared than these people, or more likely to survive? (See A Stupid Way to Die).
I found the global crisis on which the movie centers very intriguing, and, to my limited knowledge, seemed entirely plausible. The story suffers when compared to The Big Chill, but it’s a different story, not a remake, and entertains well as its own story.
If you’re in the mood for this kind of thing, I’d recommend Goodbye World. It’s a decent end of the world story that doesn’t include zombies (see Why Zombies “Bite“) aliens (see “SusPEEEND Disbelief!“) or Mayan prophecies (see 2012: The End of the World Turned Out to be Worth the Wait). That in itself makes it a refreshing change from the usual. Make a big ol’ batch of popcorn and enjoy!