This Christmas we managed to frighten ourselves into deep gloom

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL December 26, 2021

It’s probably a sign of the times that the hottest, newest Netflix Christmas movie this year was ‘Don’t Look Up’.

We chanced upon it, after the Queen’s Christmas speech, in a fallow moment between the turkey and trimmings and the cheeseboard. The cast was impressive, the blurb intriguing and the storyline seemed to tap into a vein of disquiet that everyone seems to feel, in some way, at this point of time. And so we watched it.

Honestly, I recommend ‘Don’t Look Up’, even if it leaves an aftertaste (one you might not want with Christmas dinner). The lingering aftertaste is a pervasive sense of gloom.

The film is about the dreadful warning delivered by two astronomers to humanity. A comet is hurtling towards Earth. The president of the United States has been solemnly informed and has wilfully disregarded the message. The CEO of a ginormous company has taken charge of efforts to mine (for godsakes) the comet for rare minerals (with supposed implications for jobs creation, hallelujah). The US is shown as a smirking, nativist country with scant regard for rule of law, egalitarian principles and practice, ethics or common sense. Just as soon as the astronomers start to drive home their warning of the coming catastrophe, the president and her party and the crazies on social media and off it start a parallel campaign – “don’t look up,” they say, it will only distract and frighten you. Ultimately, what has to happen, happens and the world goes dark.

‘Don’t Look Up’ is an obvious take on the last half-decade – with climate change becoming an emergency; with America finding within itself a Trumpian and moronic lightness of being and with so much now seeming to be a portent of doom for our shared home and our future as a species.

It  sends a dispiriting message – about our stupidity and pridefulness, our unwillingness to realise that we really did, as the lead character (Leonardo di Caprio) says at the end, have really everything.

And yet, the film’s satirical take on how we live – in outrage and in deliberate ignorance of what a data point really means – makes it compelling.

It was worth scaring ourselves to bits.