Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard star in When You Finish Saving the World, written and directed by Jesse Eisenberg. The film follows a mother and son who struggle to connect as they both try to impress people in their lives. While the film has talent and interesting ideas, it falls short of fully coming together in a satisfying way. The characters of Ziggy and Evelyn are portrayed as self-involved and grating, but they inspire a twinge of empathy as they navigate their strained relationship.

Ziggy, played by Finn Wolfhard, is a teenage musician who streams his music online for a loyal audience. His mother, Evelyn, played by Julianne Moore, works at a shelter for domestic abuse victims and struggles to understand her son’s music and interests. The film explores their alienation from each other and their attempts to connect with others who may not be interested in forming relationships with them. Despite their flaws, the characters are portrayed in a realistic and relatable manner.

The film is reminiscent of Noah Baumbach’s dramedies, with its lived-in eccentricity and complex character dynamics. While Moore’s performance is magnetic, some aspects of her character feel contrived and less believable. The interactions between Evelyn and other characters, such as Kyle’s mother Angie, provide moments of reflection and introspection within the story.

Despite the strong performances from the core cast, the film’s peculiarities and thematic elements do not fully coalesce. The satire on White, upper-middle-class liberals and the struggles of Evelyn and Ziggy to connect with others are explored, but the overall impact feels muddled and lacking in depth. Eisenberg’s screenplay and direction attempt to blend comic satire with moments of sincerity, but the balance between the two tones is not always successful.

Ultimately, When You Finish Saving the World is an admirable effort from Eisenberg as a first-time director, but it falls short of being a fully satisfying film. The characters, while flawed and relatable, lack depth and sharp wit, making it difficult for the audience to fully invest in their journey. Despite moments of empathy and reflection, the film struggles to find a cohesive narrative and thematic throughline. Overall, it is a film that shows potential but ultimately misses the mark in its execution.

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