The Movie Waffler SXSW 2024 Review - WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE | The Movie Waffler


We're All Gonna Die review
An anomaly caused by an alien structure throws two grieving strangers together.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Matthew Arnold, Freddie Wong

Starring: Ashly Burch, Jordan Rodrigues, Willow Hale, Alexander Chard

We're All Gonna Die poster

I'm not sure if directors Matthew Arnold and Freddie Wong shot their feature debut We're All Gonna Die during COVID, but it certainly feels like a product of the pandemic. Using a sci-fi conceit, it examines how two disparate characters cope with the grieving process in a world rendered uncertain by an unforeseen catastrophe.

An opening montage of news reports details how a large alien structure in the form of a giant spike lands on Earth. Rather than staying in one place, the spike "jumps" from one location to another in a random fashion, displacing the geographical landscape and causing significant human casualties as it does so.

We're All Gonna Die review

12 years after the spike's arrival we find beekeeper Thalia (Ashly Burch) on the third anniversary of the death of her husband and daughter. While other family members visit their graves, Thalia can't bring herself to join in. Meanwhile Kai (Jordan Rodrigues) is mourning the more recent death of his best friend, whose car has now become his home as he can't afford the rent on the apartment they shared.

On her way to deliver beehives across the country, Thalia runs into Kai. The pair enjoy some flirting before the spike has one of its "jumps," displacing both Kai's friend's car and Thalia's beehives. A bottle of beer from a micro-brewery that pops up leads the pair to surmise that their respective possessions are now in the vicinity of the town named on the bottle, and so they set off on a quest to find them together.

We're All Gonna Die review

The film then becomes a typical "Will they, won't they?" road movie as Thalia and Kai bicker their way across several states. The tension feels manufactured however, as we had previously seen how attracted they were to one another, with Kai asking Thalia to dinner and Thalia entranced by Kai's well-toned physique. The movie can't quite decide if its protagonists are best buds or sworn enemies, so it's difficult for the audience to get a grasp on their confusing dynamic. Burch and Rodrigues have the sort of easy chemistry that suggests they're friends in real life, which makes their arguments unconvincing.

Arnold and Wong come from a web series background, and We're All Gonna Die is decidedly episodic in its structure, as road movies tend to be. Kai and Thalia come across various characters but none of them leave a a lasting impression. Well, not in a positive sense – a pair of teenage slackers who seem to have escaped from a Kevin Smith movie prove intensely annoying.

We're All Gonna Die review

We're All Gonna Die drops its sci-fi conceit early on and becomes a relatively grounded road romance. The spike is seen looming on the horizon throughout, but it never plays a role until the climax. It's in the final 15 minutes that We're All Gonna Die returns to the interesting concept it established in its opening, and we finally get the examination of grief the movie initially promised.

There's a devastatingly impactful line delivered late on by Thalia about her struggles to process grief – "Every time I remember them I lose them all over again" – which only makes us wish the movie had gotten into this heady territory earlier on. The closing minutes have a genuine emotional heft, but it's scant reward for the rambling inanity we've had to endure to get to that point.

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