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‘We’re All Gonna Die’ Review: A Boy-Meets-Girl Sci-Fi Story Stretched Too Far

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There’s a good short film hiding somewhere inside Matthew Arnold and Freddie Wong’s grief-tinged sci-fi feature film debut, We’re All Gonna Die. A story that could have been told beautifully in about 45 minutes, maybe even leaving you wanting a little more, is instead stretched to beyond its limits in the feature version, dragging on for almost two full hours. 

[Warning: mild spoilers discussed for the film below]

We’re All Gonna Die: the story

The setup for the movie is itself a study in sleek minimalism. In the not-too-distant future, a mysterious extraterrestrial “spike,” a 10,000-foot-tall iridescent anomaly, suddenly appears on the earth, reaching up into our planet’s outer atmosphere. The spike is impervious to human weapons and suddenly vanishes, only to reappear in another location seemingly at will. Years and thousands of spike jumps later, humans have adapted to this new reality. 

Written during the early days of the COVID pandemic, Arnold and Wong’s alien spike is a painfully obvious and clumsy metaphor for our new favorite infectious respiratory disease. As the story awkwardly makes clear, mankind’s superpower is muddling through any adverse situation: we’re really good at simply putting our heads down and trudging through whatever catastrophe we’re forced to endure.

Almost immediately, the writing and directing team violate the internal rules of the world they’ve created. The event that gets the movie’s plot rolling doesn’t comport with what we’ve already been shown, and the characters are forced to verbalize their (and our) confusion, handwaving away the inconsistency with a throwaway line about what has happened having never happened before.

Thalia, Kai, and other characters featured

We’re All Gonna Die focuses on two characters. First is Thalia (Ashly Burch), a woman who is grieving the loss of her husband and young daughter. Kai (Jordan Rodrigues) is also drowning in the depths of grief, mourning a friend who very recently died by suicide. The two strangers meet when Thalia crashes into Kai’s car when the latter stops the vehicle in the middle of a rural road, overcome by his sadness.  

Thalia is a beekeeper, and she’s embarking on a road trip from Arizona to California to deliver her hives to an almond grower who needs the bees to pollinate his crops. As the two assess the damage from the car crash, and engage in one of the most painful and obvious meet-cuts in cinema history, something strange happens. 

We're All Gonna Die
Ashly Burch as Thalia and Jordan Rodrigues as Kai in We’re All Gonna Die (RocketJump Studios)

Kai’s precious car (we’ll find out later why the automobile is so important to him) and Thalia’s trailer full of beehives, her sole source of income and the way out of a massive debt, are essentially raptured away by something involving the spike. The items suddenly vanish, and in their place, in the middle of the Arizona desert, appear things that look more like they belong in a lush forest.

There are trees, other vegetation, a fish that is now literally out of water, and one vital clue. It’s an empty beer bottle, an ordinary piece of detritus that bares a label signifying that it came from a brewery in Washington state. Surmising that the spike somehow switched the contents of two unrelated bits of land, Thalia scrambles to get on the road in a search for her hives. She reluctantly agrees to bring Kai along to look for his missing car.

It’s a basic boy meets girl story, with lots of filler to pad out the picture’s runtime. In the early going, the pair meet two stoner kids who are, inexplicably, trying to ride their bikes from Arizona to Vermont. They need a patch for a flat tire, but end up stealing Thalia’s truck, forcing our heroes to both ride one of the pothead’s bikes to find it. 

Arnold and Wong spoke about the inspiration for the two wayward stoners during the Q&A after their film’s SXSW premiere. During a road trip that the directors took together, they came upon two real-life guys who were trying to go cross county on nothing but a pair of bicycles. Even the anecdote, while humorous, was a cocktail party story at best. Not everything that happens in real life deserves to be immortalized in a movie. 

The same is true for another character who Thalia and Kai meet during their road trip odyssey. He’s a man with a metal detector, hunting for coins, and he just so happens to provide the main characters with a crucial bit of information that is key to moving the story along. This guy is also based on a real person the directors met in Pennsylvania during their road trip. The character in the movie turning up at exactly the right moment smacks of lazy screenwriting.

Final thoughts on We’re All Gonna Die

The standout element of We’re All Gonna Die comes in the form of its two leads, Ashly Burch as Thalia and Jordan Rodrigues as Kai. Burch is one of the best things about the Apple TV+ comedy series Mythic Quest; she’s as charming and funny here as in that show. The two actors share a potent onscreen chemistry, no small feat considering the script they had to work with, which isn’t particularly engaging or clever.

The CGI effects look good, especially considering the limited budget that Arnold and Wong had at their disposal. The spike, which we see almost exclusively see at a distance, on the horizon, is a shimmering, mysterious character all its own. The climax of the film features trippy effects reminiscent of those found in Alex Garland’s 2018 mind bender Annihilation.

But special effects and two charismatic leads do not a compelling movie make. We’re All Gonna Die has its charms, but it ultimately suffers from a short film concept painfully stretched to feature length and a disregard for its own internal logic.  

Check out a trailer and find out where you can watch We’re All Gonna Die on the official website.  Are you interested in seeing this movie? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.

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Josh Thayer

Josh Thayer has been writing as The Forgetful Film Critic since 2014 and is a member of the North Texas Film Critics Association as well as the Online Film Critics Society. Website:

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