Since it premiered at Sundance in January, Jesse Eisenberg’s directorial debut When You Finish Saving the World has lost none of its topicality, exploring themes of family rifts in the divisive political climate of modern-day America. Stopping by Deadline’s Cannes Studio with his stars Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard after the film’s opening-night slot in the festival’s Critics Week, Eisenberg explained that, at its core, his drama-comedy is about two ordinary but very different people who have more in common than they think.
“The movie is about a mother and a son who have a fraught relationship,” Eisenberg says. “The mother is very politically active—she runs a domestic violence shelter—and her son is a talented musician who plays for money on a TikTok-like platform where he has thousands of followers around the world. They just don’t see eye-to-eye with their politics. Their ethics are at odds with each other, but you come to realize that they’re both quite similar: they’re driven, ambitious, self-directed people.”
Eisenberg acknowledges that his film reflects a common occurrence in a world dominated by social media. “I think we’ve all become explicitly political, probably because of the media and the changes in our culture,” he says. “And so the movie is trying to show the discomfort between having a very strong political perspective and having a family member, somebody you live with, that has an opposing set of ethics. These two characters see the world so differently, but they’re forced to live with each other. And I suppose that’s a conflict for a lot of people now; [families are] divided.”
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For Moore, this schism was what drew her to the role. “I was very interested in how polarized they are,” she says. “You see who they are as the film unfolds, and you realize their desire to connect and their inability to connect is because of their inability to see each other past their set of values. But they see understand how important it is to try to figure out how to come together rather than to stay polarized, which is the place that we are we’re in, I think, right now.”
Wolfhard is quick to point out that Eisenberg’s film does not take sides. “No one’s right,” he laughs. “No one is ever right in this film.”
Check out the full interview above.
Aero is the official sponsor of the Deadline Studio at Cannes Film Festival, sponsors are Soia & Kyo and Jamones Iberico from Spain: Ambassadors of Europe in the World.
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