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The new Netflix movie Leave the World Behind stars Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, and Mahershala Ali.
Leave the World Behind is now streaming on Netlfix, and this Julia Robets-starring thriller is no joke…okay, there actually are quite a few jokes. The Academy Award-winning Julia Roberts co-stars in the film with fellow Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali, Oscar-nominee Ethan Hawke, and Kevin Bacon, plus a whole lot of hacked Teslas that ruin everyone’s day. Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail directs the movie which is based on the book by Rumaan Alam, executive produced by Barack and Michelle Obama. Though Mr. Robot fans may know Sam Esmail’s twisty narrative style and peculiar camera angles, newcomers might be a little confused by that, not to mention Leave the World Behind‘s WILD ending. So if you’re confused about what happened in Leave the World Behind, or you just want to know what goes on before you dive in yourself, we’ve got you covered.
Leave the World Behind Ending Explained
At the start of Leave the World Behind, Amanda (Julia Roberts) and Clay (Ethan Hawke) take their two children (Farrah Mackenzie as Rose and Charlie Evans as Archie) for a spontaneous vacation to Long Island. Weird things begin to happen though after they arrive including an oil tanker grounding on the beach near their vacation house and then the internet and television signals going out. That night, unbothered by what’s going on, a knock at the door reveals G.H. (Mahershala Ali) and his daughter Ruth (Myha’la), the owners of the house who have come from New York City seeking shelter.
Though Amanda is very suspicious of G.H. and Ruth’s story, unable to fully believe their story that this is their home and also about the blackout that they witnessed in New York City. Reluctantly they agree to let them stay (after G.H. hands over $1000 in cash as a partial refund for their payment), leading to the next morning when both George and Clay head out of the house to see what they can find and who they can talk to. Clay attempts to head to town, but gets lost along the way and encounters two things, a Spanish woman who he does not help and then a drone dropping leaflets with a message written in Arabic. George goes to a nearby neighbor’s house and not only finds no one but notices wreckage on the beach from a crashed airplane, only to see another one fall out of the sky right in front of him.
The next day an ear-piercing sound overtakes the air, with an unknown origin and debilitating effects. Amanda and Clay make the decision to try and get to a family member’s house in New Jersey, leaving G.H. and Ruth’s house. They don’t make it far though as the roads into the city are totally blocked thanks to wrecked vehicles. This is only made worse by automated Tesla’s driving into the wreckage to make things even worse.
After what seems like a calm night, the next morning goes from bad to worse as not only has Amanda’s daughter Rose seemingly disappeared but her son Archie is throwing up blood and his teeth are falling out. Is it from the unidentified noise? Is it from the bug that bit him earlier in the movie? Either way, G.H. has the idea to go to local contractor Danny’s house looking for help.
Throughout all of this it’s unclear what’s really going on, with theories about an invasion in the United States, a terrorist attack, or a major hack on power plants and infrastructure. But after G.H. and Clay go to Danny’s house, G.H. makes a confession. Earlier in Leave the World Behind he revealed a story about a high-profile client of his that works in the defense sector and deals with major Pentagon contracts. He offers a theory about a program that terrified his client and which he thinks is what’s going on, a three stage plan to topple a government:
- Isolation – The first step is disabling communications and transportation. In the events of Leave the World Behind this is carried out by the cyber attack that has left the phones and internet down, as well as the destruction of the ships, airplanes, and highway system.
- Synchronized Chaos – The second step is terrorizing the populace with “covert attacks and misinformation.” This is seen in Leave the World Behind by the loud, ear-piercing sounds that happen at random as well as the leaflets in various languages that imply one group/country’s responsibility. A key pilar of this is that it would overwhelm weapon systems and leave them vulnerable while also forcing neighbors to turn on each other due to trusting no one.
- Coup d’etat/Civil War/Collapse – The third step is the cherry on top of this bad pie. As G.H. explains it, this plan was considered the most cost-effective method to destroy a country because if it was already unstable enough then all the work would be down for you. This is witnessed in one of the last scenes as Amanda and Ruth look in horror watching bombs drop on New York City.
As Leave the World Behind closes it’s left ambiguous about who might be behind this attack but then also who is carrying out the actual violence. Who is leveling the city? Who is firing the guns we here? The point is that it doesn’t matter, the plan worked and America did it to herself.
Leave the World Behind deer meaning
Throughout the events of Leave the World Behind, wild animals are revealed to be in places no one is expecting them and behaving in odd ways. At first this might appear to be random or like it isn’t adding anything to the movie, but it’s explained very quickly in the film. While Clay is trying to drive in the town he pulls over to the side of the road and gets out of his car, looking for a sign of anything. As he stands outside the radio finally begins to play and a message plays that reveals “reported of fallout from ongoing cyber attack has led to a catastrophic environmental disaster in the south, impacting animal migration patterns.” It’s an easy moment to miss, but it’s one that makes the sequences of deer and flamingos in the movie make a little more sense.
As for the actual textual meaning of why the deer are present, it likely has to do with the film’s plot and the three tiered plan of attack. The appearances of the deer around the home and even when they surround Amanda and Ruth, is likely reminiscent of what G.H. says is the second part of the plan. After confusing a population and disrupting their communications, they turn on each other, even harmless animals like deer.
In an interview with Netflix’s Tudum, Esmail said of the deer: “Deer are peaceful creatures. To turn that sweet image into now this sort of ominous, menacing, almost warning – I thought was really interesting. That’s the trick about this movie. We always tried to take the things that we never really considered a threat and then turn it around on them.”
Leave the World Behind Friends Exaplined
Throughout the events of Leave the World Behind, Rose is seen watching Friends on her iPad. After the internet goes out though she’s unable to watch it, and having just gotten to the series finale of the show she’s very antsy about finding out how it all ends. As Leave the World Behind comes to a close though it’s revealed that when Rose disappeared she has simply walked over to a nearby house which happens to have a doomsday bunker. While walking around the house she stumbles upon this bunker and discovers it has both a big TV and a giant physical media collection, including all the seasons of Friends. Rose pops in the DVD and watches the final episode of the sitcom as the movie ends.
Leave the World Behind Sequel
Despite the fact that Leave the World Behind sets itself up for a sequel, or perhaps even just another movie in the same universe, no official word on a Leave the World Behind sequel has been announced. Considering how eager Netflix is to have their own franchises though, and the potential for something else seems totally possible.
In this apocalyptic thriller from award-winning writer and director Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot), Amanda (Academy Award winner Julia Roberts) and her husband Clay (Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke), rent a luxurious home for the weekend with their kids, Archie (Charlie Evans) and Rose (Farrah Mackenzie). Their vacation is soon upended when two strangers – G.H. (Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali) and his daughter Ruth (Myha’la) – arrive in the night, bearing news of a mysterious cyberattack and seeking refuge in the house they claim is theirs. The two families reckon with a looming disaster that grows more terrifying by the minute, forcing everyone to come to terms with their places in a collapsing world. Based on the National Book Award-nominated novel by Rumaan Alam, LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND is produced by Esmail Corp, Red Om Films, and executive produced by Higher Ground Productions.