“I punched my dad in the face and stole his car. That seemed like a good place to start”. So says seventeen-year old psychopath James (Alex Lawther), in the first episode of UK drama/comedy The End of the F***ing World, which made its international debut on Netflix this past month. James is a troubled child with a traumatic past, and in his spare time he sneaks off into the woods to murder cats, dogs, and butterflies. He is planning to murder his first human target when he meets Alyssa (Jessica Barden), a brash and outwardly confident young girl at his school who he pretends to fall in love with.
Things don’t quite go according to plan, and James’ scheme is put on hold when he and Alyssa decide to leave town in his dad’s car – but not before delivering the unfortunate man a punch to the face. This sets in motion a darkly comic and wildly unpredictable journey, brought to life by the fantastic acting of Barden and Lawther in the lead roles. Straight-faced and socially inept James is the perfect foil to Alyssa, whose fiery personality is a front for a lot of vulnerability and pain.
It quickly becomes clear that The End of the F***ing World is more than just a comedy with a dark sense of humour. As the series progresses, it tackles delicate topics like mental health, parental role models, masculinity and domestic abuse. But it does so very subtly, and never loses its ability to make us laugh out loud. In fact, some of the shows funniest moments are those that arise out of the bleakest situations: in a later episode, we are introduced to local drug dealer Johnny, who only ever wears shorts. “What did you wear to your ma’s funeral, Johnny?’ someone asks him. ‘Black shorts’, he replies.
The show’s production is fantastic all around, too. Its editing is snappy and stylish, cutting quickly between scenes and jumping backwards and forwards in time. The soundtrack features plenty of memorable songs, and a score put together by Graham Coxon of Blur. And the cinematography is gorgeous, particularly in the later episodes, which feature long shots of desolate, windswept beaches and sunsets.
The End of the F***ing World performs a deft balancing act between comedy and tragedy, making us laugh in order to get us thinking about some important and under-explored issues. It had me completely hooked for the entirety of its short duration, and it’s shocking ending left me wanting more. Simply put: The End of the F***ing World is one of the best shows to come out of the UK in some time, and wider international release on Netflix means you have no excuse not to check it out.