Keira Knightly is Nell, the anxious hostess, desperate for everything to go well and for everyone to have a perfect festive time. Matthew Goode is her husband, Simon. Rufus Jones and Annabelle Wallis are a couple from their university days who have spawned a ghastly, affected daughter, while Lucy Punch is another uni chum, who is introducing her female partner (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) into the mix. The reunion is competed by James (Sope Dirisu) with his much younger and pregnant girlfriend (Lily-Rose Depp), also an outsider.
But before they get too deeply into tearing each other apart over past hurts, the real purpose of the gathering is revealed to us over the Christmas dinner table by Nell and Simon’s eldest child Art (Roman Griffin Davis). This Christmas night is the group’s last night on earth. A toxic cloud is moving across the country, bringing an excruciatingly painful death to all in its path. The government can do nothing to stop it, so have issued everyone with a suicide pill to give them a painless end. Everyone that is apart from the homeless (and probably asylum seekers) as they don’t legally exist. An oblique satirical reference to contemporary issues perhaps?
While most of the group appear to accept their fate and intend to party until pill time, Art, who is just a child, wants to take his chance and carry on living. Maybe there’s a chance the cloud doesn’t kill everyone, that some people might survive it? He finds an ally in Sophie, who cannot bear the thought of killing her unborn child.
As the cloud rather effectively creeps nearer to the house, along railway lines and over deserted fields – a combination of grey fifties style smog and the nuclear cloud approaching Australia in Neville Shute’s classic doomsday tale On the Beach – Nell and Simon’s family say an online goodbye to Granny (Trudie Styler) before she goes upstairs to take her pill. The end of the world or certainly the UK appears inevitable. A country full of dead people. Merry Christmas.
The film is very entertaining in its somewhat bleak way with its amusing satirical side swipes at our present reality of the pandemic and our often floundering authority.
And young Griffin Davies, who is at the centre of the second half of the film, is astonishingly good.