When You Finish Saving the World – Sundance 2022

Finn Wolfhard and Julianne Moore appear in When You Finish Saving the World by Jesse Eisenberg, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Beth Garrabrant.

Oscar-nominated actor Jesse Eisenberg makes his directorial debut at Sundance with the A24 film, When You Finish Saving the World.

Evelyn Katz (Julianne Moore) runs a shelter for domestic abuse survivors. But when it comes to her home life, she struggles when it comes to finding a connection with her son, Ziggy (Finn Wolfhard). She only realizes this when a new family comes to her shelter: Angie (Eleonore Hendricks) and son, Kyle (Billy Bryk). Evelyn brings Kyle under her wings even as she struggles with her own son. Ziggy is a popular folk-rock star online but he turns towards a political focus as a way of impressing Lila (Alisha Boe) at school. Here’s the thing about Ziggy–this whole being politically conscious of what’s happening around him is a new thing for him.

It’s ironic that Ziggy is interested in a politically active classmate while not being able to connect with his mom in the same way. Because of this, Evelyn finds a surrogate son in Kyle. This connection with others leads both to realize what’s missing in their lives–each other.

Eisenberg comes from a very personal place in telling the story even if it’s not autobiographical. His late mother-in-law ran a domestic abuse shelter and the actor has been involved in the field through his marriage. The film has a few things going for it. It deals with being famous on social media as well as using one’s platform to speak out about a cause. The film also deals with parents and children in different generations and the struggle to connect with each other. It’s not the same but they both have this want to connect with other people. Naturally, it’s a film that–on paper–should be perfect for 2022. Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard are fine but their performances alone aren’t enough to elevate When You Finish Saving the World.

I went into this film with high expectations because it is Jesse Eisenberg’s directorial debut. You also have Emma Stone attached as a producer, too. It goes without saying that anything released by A24 tends to come with their seal of approval. Throw in Sundance and it should be a winning combination, right? Maybe my expectations were way too high much like the time when I first watched Adventureland in 2009. Unfortunately, I struggled with it and had to fight to stay awake let alone stay focused. I don’t know if it’s because of my headspace during the past week or the freezing temperatures in my apartment. Maybe it’s a mix of both but believe me, I tried.

CAST: Julianne Moore, Finn Wolfhard, Alisha Boe, Jay O. Sanders, Billy Bryk, Eleonore Hendricks

When You Finish Saving the World holds its world premiere during the 2022 Sundance Film Festival in the Premieres program. A24 will release the film at a later date.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.