‘Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World’ Review: A Wild Romanian Trip

Late in Radu Jude’s “Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World,” the movie shifts tones. Our heroine, a funny, foul-mouthed gofer who’s racking up miles driving in Bucharest, has just told her passenger about a road outside the city that has more memorials edging it than it has kilometers. The movie then cuts to one after another roadside memorial — some stone, others metal, some with photos, others with flowers — for an astonishing four silent minutes, and this near-unclassifiable, often comically ribald movie turns into a plaintive requiem.

The woman, Angela — the sneakily charismatic Ilinca Manolache — is a production assistant toiling for a foreign company that’s making a workplace safety video in Romania. Among her tasks is interviewing men and women who have been injured on the job, the idea being that one will make a camera-friendly cautionary tale for workers. As she changes gears, and the movie switches between black-and-white film and color video, Angela flips off other drivers, acidly critiques all that she encounters, creates TikTok videos and effectively maps the geopolitical landscape of contemporary Romania. At one point, she meets the German director Uwe Boll, who’s known to have trounced a few of his critics in boxing matches.

I don’t think that Jude wants to beat up critics (even if the interlude with Boll, who’s shooting a “bug-killer film,” is almost endearing); among other things, his movies tend to be well-received. Jude’s shaggy provocation “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn,” for instance, earned high praise as well as top honors at the Berlin Film Festival in 2021. At the same time, there’s a pushy, borderline abrasive aspect to how Jude strings out Angela’s time behind the wheel in “Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World,” forcing you to share in her tedium. The movie is overflowing with ideas — about history, capitalism, cinema, representation — but it also tests your patience before amply rewarding it.

It’s still dark when Angela stumbles out of bed one early morning, naked and cursing. (One of her favorite expletives is featured both in the first and final words in the movie, a fitting bookending blurt that seems like a cri de coeur and one of the movie’s more unambiguously authorial statements.) Before long, she’s dressed and out in the streets, making the first in a series of TikToks in which she takes on the guise of her bald social-media avatar, a bro named Bobita, an extravagantly offensive vulgarian who brags about hanging out with his pal Andrew Tate, the online influencer and self-anointed “king of toxic masculinity.”

Tate’s trajectory is lurid and gross, but the references to him are more symbolically than specifically germane to the movie. (Tate moved to Romania in 2017; he was arrested there in May 2023 on an assortment of charges, including human trafficking.) For Angela — for Jude — Tate basically functions as yet another emblem of Bobita’s grotesqueness and of a larger worldview, one that has reduced everything to its market value. Everything is part of his unending hustle, including the Maserati he brags about owning, the women he boasts about sexually conquering and, of course, himself. “Remember,” Bobita says, “like and share!” With her avatar, Angela entertains her audience with a very sharp sting.

The same can be said of “Do Not Expect Too Much,” which gradually gathers shape and force as Angela motors around Bucharest. As she does, Jude cuts between her and the title heroine of “Angela Goes On,” a 1981 Romanian film directed by Lucian Bratu about a taxi driver. Produced in the waning years of the Ceausescu dictatorship, the earlier film serves as a fascinating counterpoint to Jude’s movie visually and thematically. (The opening credits announce that this movie is a “conversation” with the 1981 film.) From one angle, not much has changed, but if the roads are still jammed and people hungry, it’s now capitalism rather than communism that keeps this world busily spinning.

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