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[Sundance ’22] ‘When You Finish Saving the World’ review: Jesse Eisenberg makes his directorial debut at Sundance

Eisenberg shows how being woke has blindspots

Jesse Eisenberg’s directorial debut When you Finish Saving the World premieres at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard star as a dysfunctional mother and son who are so consumed about their own fulfillment they are oblivious to the feelings of those around them. When You Finish Saving the World takes a funny look at how some people would rather convey the appearance of being socially conscience and selfless than care for the people closest to them. Clever writing and offbeat characters add heart and depth to this glimpse of unconventional familial bonding. 

When You Finish Saving the World is adapted from an audiobook composed by Eisenberg and performed by Wolfhard. Wolfhard plays Ziggy, a teenage boy who lets everyone know about his huge following on social media, where he plays music for thousands of fans around the world. The film begins with a wholesome look at eager fans logging on for a live streamed performance of Ziggy’s feel good music. Evelyn, Ziggy’s mother played by Moore, sees no merit in his music and sees it as shallow. While Ziggy’s father just hopes he’s not playing the blues and partaking in cultural appropriation. Ziggy does not really care what his parents think because he is an internet success. Meanwhile, Evelyn runs a shelter to which she devotes all her time. She is all too aware of the importance of her work. 

Moore gives a remarkable performance as Evelyn, a woman who gives the appearance of calmness, but unravels with her son’s rebellion. This is a complementary contrast to Ziggy who is loud but cool, even though he also spirals out under his mother’s mockery.  Eisenberg’s directing and use of film throughout the film punctuate the ups and downs of the developing story. While Ziggy and Evelyn seek the approval of others, it is the use of music that follows them on their separate journeys.

Filled with Truthaches.

Funny, touching, filled with “Truthaches” and “folk classical with alternative inspiration”, When You Finish Saving the World takes the audience on a tour of families, political poetry, and immature behavior. 

The Sundance Film Festival is online January 20- January 30. Tickets can be purchased and a full lineup can be found here.

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