One of many premieres at this year’s Sundance Film Festival comes the full-feature directorial debut from Jesse Eisenberg who also pens this script about a dysfunctional mother and son played by Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard. Moore plays Evelyn, a traditional and relatively uptight mother to Wolfhard’s Ziggy, a musician with a growing internet following. The disconnect between them seems to be something that has grown naturally over time. There isn’t any blatant animosity, but there is a regret in Evelyn as she sees her son as being completely different from the little boy she remembered and had dreams for.
Ziggy, like many teens, seems to be lost in his own world. Trying to impress his socially connected classmates, particularly a certain female with a world of political views that intrigue a rather dim Ziggy. This is where the film feels very much like a routine story of adolescence blended with the generational gap between mother and son. The story progression navigates through Ziggy’s rough attempts at fitting in. He doesn’t really want to do the work, and he doesn’t really have the sincerest of intentions. So, while his character did feel a bit authentic, and Wolfhard’s delivery was natural. The result was a character I didn’t really invest in or connect with.
This in turn undercuts the overall message of getting lost in your preconceived notions and not seeing things in someone that are right in front of you. There are spots this film poignantly captures situations that were sweet, and at times touching. But neither Ziggy nor Evelyn is overly appealing. At least to the point where you have a vested interest in seeing if this family can find one another. I will say the closing was nicely crafted and I thought it was very endearing. Unfortunately, the layering of the story leading up to it was a bit too thin to fully explore these family issues with enough meaning to make them impactful.
The performances were more than capable. I enjoyed watching Moore and Wolfhard, but I waited for them to lure me in, and it never really happened. The writing didn’t pull the true potential it could have from these characters. Stretching the runtime and diving deeper into the characters would have allowed more substance to fill the emotional layering. Which may have resulted in a plot with more weight to it. Because some added depth to the dramatic elements of this film would have paired nicely with the grounded spots of levity to resonate more. As it is, “When You Finish Saving the World” is an adequate film that provides an easy watch. It just may not stick with you for very long.
Anthony J. Digioia II © 2022 SilverScreen Analysis. All Rights Reserved.