Watch: Jodie Comer and Mahalia Belo discuss The End We Start From
The dystopian film, directed by Mahalia Belo, sees Comer star as a pregnant woman who gives birth during a freak weather event that saw London get completely flooded, and the UK be devastated by storms that leaves people starving and without homes. Comer's character, named simply 'mother', must do all that she can to survive and keep her baby safe in uncertain and dangerous times.
Set over the course of several months, the film required Comer to work with a number of different babies, at different ages, in order to convey her character's struggle which the actor says was both "beautiful" and "tricky" to do.
"You have to learn to surrender to it," Comer reflects. "You really do have to learn to go with it, especially when you're shooting on film.
"The film is so valuable that you're like, 'OK, the baby's supposed to be laughing but now he's screaming. Let's just go with it'."Jodie Comer
Belo concurred, saying of the shoot: "They brought a lot and also I think there's an atmosphere, the positives is that you bring a baby on and everyone goes quiet and there's this sort of sense that there's a purpose to everything.
"Everybody knows what they're doing, sound to to camera, everybody's there with the baby and then the baby does exactly what it wants. And that can be amazing, and also it can be really, really annoying."
"We have some takes when the baby's crying and [the cast] are responding that I would have loved to use, it just didn't make sense," the filmmaker adds. "But there's something that's so organic that came out of it and involved improvisation because of the baby, which was beautiful. We used some of it, obviously you can feel it in the film, I think."
The movie explores motherhood in all its complexities, showing the strength that mothers like Comer's character must rely on particularly when circumstances see her separated from her partner R (Joel Fry). This was something that Belo, as a mother, wanted to explore in the film more closely.
"I think there is a strength, like giving birth for example is probably the most vulnerable I've ever felt in my life, but also the most strong. And I felt that this film is almost the depiction of that in many ways, that it's a bit of both," Belo says.
"You have to be open and present, but also it's incredibly painful as well, there's a trauma in it, and that is the story. I wanted it to feel like we were speaking about motherhood in a way that hadn't really [been done before], that first year of motherhood that hadn't been seen before, because it's quite specific.
"Everything changes suddenly in your life and you can't be ever be prepared for it."Mahalia Belo
Comer adds that she was "struck by the complexity of" motherhood, and that she went to friends that had children in order to better understand the experience that her character was going through.
"Having a child, your life is altered immeasurably, you know? And I think until you experience that you don't quite fully understand it," she explains.
"And I really wanted to get to the bottom of what that was and having conversations with women in my life who are mothers and being able to ask them really personal and difficult questions, and playing all the contradictions of [motherhood].
"It can be so life affirming, so destructive. Even when you think of your body and your relationship to it, or how it alters the relationships that you have with the people in your life."Jodie Comer
"I knew that May wanted to just go for it and show all of that, and that was really exciting to me because I didn't feel like I'd seen that."
The shoot itself was an "intense" experience because of the six-week filming schedule and her work with babies throughout, as she says: "At the best of times there was a time constraint, and then you put the fact that we have a baby in every scene so that was a challenge for us."
Belo concurs, adding: "We had to go at it running there was no time at all for every scene. And also because we couldn't shoot in order, could we? So we were kind of moving through it."
Comer goes on to share her appreciation for the relationship she developed with the filmmaker during production, saying: "There was very little time to think and actually, what was amazing about the relationship that I had with May was we were always being very clear on [the character's] emotional trajectory and always having a conversation about that.
"But it was interesting because I'd just come from doing a play [Prima Facie] and I almost felt like that experience got me ready to do this — it was almost like it was a good preparation to go into this full steam ahead.
"Everyone on the crew understood the time constraint and what what we were trying to achieve and how the odds were kind of stacked against us, but we were all gonna give it our all and do our best to get the material on film. So I feel like that really propelled us all through it."
The End We Start From premieres in cinemas on Friday, 19 January.
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Watch the trailer for The End We Start From: