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Paradise Lost

A luxurious vacation gives way to a mysterious apocalypse in new thriller Leave the World Behind

Based on Rumaan Alam’s bestselling 2020 novel of the same name, Leave the World Behind stars Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke as married couple Amanda and Clay Sandford, whose family getaway to Long Island is steered far from the rest and relaxation they expected. After putting off a much-needed break from their busy day-to-day city life, Amanda tells Clay, “I figured if I made the reservation and packed our bags, it would eliminate most of the reasons to say no.” Off they go to a sprawling home near the beach with their two children, teenager Archie (Charlie Evans) and their youngest, Rose (Farrah Mackenzie).

While Amanda and Clay watch on as their children enjoy the pool and they all begin to settle into their temporary home, the peace and quiet begins feeling eerie. The cable and internet are mysteriously out, but the Sandfords try to make the most of it by pulling out games to pass the time. A knock at the door in the dark of night puts them face to face with two strangers in formal wear.

Mahershala Ali is G.H. Scott, the owner of the home, which he explains to the bewildered couple blocking his doorway. This fateful introduction deepens the uneasiness that’s beginning to build, when Amanda asks, “This is your house?” G.H., joined by his daughter Ruth (Myha’la), face down their guests until they are eventually let into their home.

Widespread blackouts led the Scotts to flee New York City for their Long Island residence, wanting to wait out the outage away from the panic of the city. Relegated to the basement in-law suite by a forcefully skeptical Amanda, the divide between the two families intensifies. Both sides want the other out of the house, and while they could just harmoniously share the ample square footage, righteous advertising executive Amanda is determined to make the Scotts uncomfortable in their own home.


But, there are much bigger problems on the horizon — literally, when a picturesque day at the beach is interrupted when a giant ship ominously lurches straight toward Amanda and Clay as they sit on their beach towels. The ship crashes ashore, sending sunbathers running back inland.

Closer to home, a herd of deer stares down Rose as they migrate en masse through the manicured wilderness, away from some unknown threat. A sharp sound pierces everyone’s ears and shatters lightbulbs in the hanging pendants above the marble kitchen island. Countless abandoned white Teslas completely block oceanside roads and speed uncontrollably toward the Sandford’s car as they try to make an escape. Trouble in paradise is an understatement.

If Amanda is determined not to make any friends in the apocalypse, her efforts are matched only by gruff contractor Danny, portrayed by Kevin Bacon. Holding his shotgun as a warning, Danny sternly tells G.H., “I would do anything to protect my family. What you do is your business.” A woman desperately clings to the passenger side door as Clay accelerates away, lost in this unfamiliar beach town, leaving the Sandford and Scott families no choice but to rely on each other for the time being.


All they know for certain is that a countrywide cyberattack has caused sweeping power outages along the East Coast. Confirmed with an unsettling “unrecognized emergency warning” blasting bright blue light from the beach home’s flat-screen TV, G.H.’s hunch that the seemingly unrelated disasters are connected grows.

Leave the World Behind is written and directed by Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail, who spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about adapting the novel shortly after it was published during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was a crazy time, those early days [of the pandemic],” he said, “and when I read the book what really resonated for me was this idea that in a moment of crisis, just how easily we could forget our common humanity.”

Among the film’s producers are Barack and Michelle Obama, and Esmail shared what it was like to collaborate with the former president and first lady. “They gave notes on everything from the disaster elements to the characters,” he said. “It’s a highlight of my career that I got to work with the Obamas. They’re some of the most brilliant minds on the planet and I’m really grateful for their involvement.”

Leave the World Behind, streaming from Friday, December 8 on Netflix

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