Have you ever stopped in the middle of taking out the trash, or stressing out about a term paper, or looking for a job and asked yourself, “What the hell is going on?” If you’re like most people, sadly, the answer is no. Brian Horiuchi’s film, Parts Per Billion, tosses characters in the midst of an impending apocalypse (airborne pathogen) and forces each one to evaluate the important things in life. Told through snippets from before and after the catastrophic event, the lives of three couples unravel as the world as they know it unravels around them.
Len (Josh Harnett) and Mia (Rosario Dawson) are a married couple on the brink of their own ending. Jobless writer Len constantly struggles with feelings of inadequacy as his hotshot lawyer wife supports him financially and mentally. Although Mia is a beacon of stability for her husband and her firm, she can’t help but to feel herself becoming emotionally drained by Len’s antics.
Erik (Penn Badgley) and Anna (Teresa Palmer) are a young couple that recently got engaged. Erik is a struggling musician backed by his wealthy grandfather. He’s attempting to gain financial independence for the sake of his fiance. The only fitting way to describe their relationship is by saying that Anna falls into him, an occurrence very common in early twenty-somethings. She lacks the confidence and courage to assert herself in a way that Erik will understand, which is okay—because Erik doesn’t listen anyway. They both seem to be so in love with love that they don’t realize that they actually aren’t the best fit.
The final couple is Andy (Frank Langella) and Esther (Gena Rowlands). The two surpass the other couples in age and wisdom, but still have their own share of struggles. Andy carries a burden that weighs down heavily on him, impacting his reactions and decisions.
All of their lives are interwoven in some way, but each faces the end of the world with their partner. While this film isn’t all bloody carcasses and mass destruction, its analysis of human complexities makes it a must-see. Mia says something to the effect that cyclical destruction is human nature. In a way, she’s right. Had it not been for a widespread attack, they all would have surely destroyed their own lives regardless. It makes you wonder if the world these people live in is worth saving or even rebuilding.
There’s a detached bond that forms between the viewers and the characters. We don’t know these people. We don’t see enough of them to know who they really are or feel sympathy. It’s like when you meet someone in passing, say, in line at Starbucks, and then you find out they died or got their arms amputated. There’s nothing you can do, and you don’t know them personally, so all you can say is “Well, that sucks.”
However, I still found myself wondering what could have happened. Would Len and Mia get a divorce? Would Erik and Anna really get married, or would she wisen up to her naivety? But then again, none of those things matter because everyone dies in the end regardless.
Yes, slightly depressing, but if you’re into that kind of thing, here’s a trailer:
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