The Total Buy In

Note: Spoiler Alert

One Saturday night a while back my family and I rented Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (In an eerie coincidence, we were ten minutes into the movie when an earthquake measuring 7.7 hit a few hours north of us. Luckily there was no damage and I didn’t find out until later about it or the tsunami advisory so my movie watching went on uninterrupted).

And I’m glad because this movie captivated me. Set in the near future, the premise is simple. An asteroid named ‘Matilda’ is on a collision course with Earth. In three weeks, the world will come to an absolute end. What will people do in the time they have left?

I love big question stuff. I also love black humor, a ticking clock, a dog (big thumbs up on that) and love. This movie had all of that. It wasn’t a romantic comedy, but it was both funny and it was romantic. The pairing of leads Steve Carell with Keira Knightley was admittedly odd. Some reviewers didn’t like it. I did.

They are neighbors who are thrown together after the countdown to Matilda begins. With transportation in chaos and their apartment building trashed by looters, they take off on a road trip. Carell wants to find a girl from his past and Knightley is anxious to reunite with her family. The relationship develops from there.

Admittedly, there were some things I didn’t love. A few issues were glossed over, and there were a few unanswered questions too. Though, come to think of it, there probably will be an unanswered question or two at the end of the world.

The thing is, though, when the end came in this movie and for these two characters, I was devastated. So much so that my jaw hit my chest and I turned to my family and said, “They die?

The Martian laughed. “What did you expect?”
Teen Freud rolled his eyes. “Yeah, it’s not called Seeking a Friend for a Near But Averted Catastrophe.”

They were right. I knew that. I knew too that I hadn’t been misled by anything in the film. Not really. Oh, sure, there were those few unanswered questions and maybe a hint that life might go on, but realistically I’d gotten what I’d signed up for.

Except I’d done a total buy in. I’d been totally, 100% hooked by the characters. I was invested in their lives, their dreams, their love. When the end came I wanted them to live on.

And, really, isn’t that what we try for as writers? To hook the reader? To get them to do a total buy in? To root for our characters so completely that when the end comes they may not be left wanting more but at the very least they think there is more. They truly believe in their heart of hearts that the end of that particular story is the beginning of a new story for those characters. And that includes characters being hit full force by the asteroid Matilda.

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By the time she hit Grade Four, Laura Tobias knew she wanted to be a writer. So did the teachers. It was the persistent daydreaming and invisible friends that tipped them off. Since Laura grew up knowing no writers – and consequently didn’t know how to be one – she became a journalist instead. The trouble is, journalists are expected to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But making stuff up is way more fun. So Laura traded one notebook for another and today she writes romance and women’s fiction. She lives on Vancouver Island with a pair of Shetland sheepdogs, her high school sweetheart (Mr. Petrol Head) and her son (Teen Freud). She’s also the award-winning author of 15 books for teens and children writing as Laura Langston: Also find her at and occasionally at

2 Responses

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  1. Bonnie Edwards
    Bonnie Edwards at | | Reply

    thanks so much for this warning Laura! I am a Happy Ending kind of person. (the kind that watches any version of Titanic and hopes that *this* time the ship won’t sink…LOL)

    But maybe that’s why we write, hm? To correct unhappy times or endings that we’ve seen in life. Oh, to rewrite a broken relationship…to fix it so people can find their way.

    If you could rewrite the ending of that movie…what would you write?

    I think I’d have some obscure foreign power blast (maybe a cantankerous one) Matilda to space dust. Maybe they turn a weapon of mass destruction to good use!


  2. Laura Tobias
    Laura Tobias at | | Reply

    I would’ve been happy with a crumb. Seriously, those two barely got together before they were obliterated. Not fair. ;>) Even a line or two of dialogue in the fade to black – or in this case white – would have done. But I do like your idea of putting a weapon of mass destruction to good use…..

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