What is The End We Start From based on? The movie about first time motherhood in an apocalypse

Motherhood and failing planet collide in the movie

Jodie Comer holding a baby in The End We Start From
(Image credit: BBC Film/FlixPix/Alamy)

What is The End We Start From based on? Jodie Comer is a new mum trying to survive the chaos of an apocalyptic world in this survival drama.

In The End We Start From, Jodie Comer's character has given birth just as apocalyptic level flooding makes her London home uninhabitable. Along with her husband (played by Joel Fry) the new parents are forced to flee the destruction of their home city to find safety in the North. Directed by Mahalia Belo, the film is an intense look at the anxiety of motherhood, compounded by extreme circumstances. The usual need to protect their baby sees a family pushed to its limits, as new dangers lurk around every corner. 

Those watching the film have been wondering about the story's origins, in the same way many recently wondered what Foe is based on - marriage and identity take strong focus in the sci-fi thriller. Similarly, Netflix viewers have been asking what Fool Me Once is based on, and the origins of Leave The World Behind. Read on as we delve into the inspiration behind The End We Start From.

What is The End We Start From based on?

The End We Start From is based on the 2017 Megan Hunter book of the same name, which was the author's debut novel. As with the film, the world is in the midst of a mysterious environmental crisis, and London is submerged below flood waters.

Jodie Comer's 'Mother' gives birth to her first child, Zeb, in the middle of the crisis. As the family move from place to place to find shelter, the devastation is offset by the wonder of Zeb's small fists grasping at the things he sees, and thriving against the odds.

The novel has been translated into eight languages, and shortlisted for Novel of the Year at the Books Are My Bag Awards. It also made the longlist for the Aspen Words Prize, and became a Barnes and Noble Discover Awards finalist. The End We Start From won the Forward Reviews Editor’s Choice Award too.

In conversation with Shiny New Books, Megan Hunter was asked how her own experiences of motherhood influenced the novel. She replied: "It’s difficult to say how much is from my own experience: I think life is filtered in fiction in mysterious ways. I have two children and so inevitably this experience is part of who I am, and thus part of my writing. But I did not think of the narrator as myself, and of Z as my son."

She added "The book was an exercise in imagining someone else coping in this situation, rather than myself per se, although of course it draws on my own experience of early motherhood as a time of dislocation, uncertainty, and of physical pleasure and pain. It’s more about how our anxieties over parenting choices (and products) can distract from  – and inhibit discussion of – the more emotional, elemental aspects of parenting: learning how to love a new person, and dealing with changes to your body and mind."

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter - £9.05 | Amazon

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter - £9.05 | Amazon

Read the book that inspired a major movie starring Jodie Comer as a new mother facing life with a newborn amid apocalyptic flooding.

Where was The End We Start From filmed?

Although not all of the filming locations are known, it is thought that some scenes from The End We Start From were filmed in London and Oxfordshire.

In October 2022, the Daily Mail reported that Jodie Comer had been spotted filming scenes on the roof of the Hard Rock Cafe in Piccadilly, London. It's also known that filming took place at Carmel College, a disused boarding school in Wallingford, Oxfordshire. The school closed in 1997, and despite the land being bought by developers, has remained untouched since. There are some Grade ll listed buildings in the grounds, and the site has been used many times for filming and photoshoots since its closure.

As so many scenes involved Jodie Comer holding a baby, a total of 15 babies were used throughout the filming process. According to the BBC, Comer was scared of how many babies were involved. She said "A lot of my younger cousins have grown up now, so I haven't spent a lot of time around young babies. My hands were visibly shaking when I met an eight-week-old on set. I was like, 'Oh my god, what have I done?'"

She concluded "It's one thing to act and think about everything else, but then actually being conscious of this precious little being and making sure that they're safe..."  

Katherine Waterston & Jodie Comer in The End We Start From

(Image credit: BBC Film/FlixPix/Alamy)

The End We Start From: Cast

  • Jodie Comer (Killing Eve, Help) as Mother
  • Joel Fry (Game of Thrones, Our Flag Means Death) as R
  • Katherine Waterston (Boardwalk Empire, Slow Horses) as O
  • Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange, 1917) as AB
  • Mark Strong (Cruella, Murder Mystery 2)
  • Gina McKee (Notting Hill, My Policeman)
  • Nina Sosanya (Screw, His Dark Materials)

Speaking to The Upcoming YouTube channel, Joel Fry said of the film, "If you've had a baby, you should go and see it. If you haven't had a baby you can go and see it too. But specifically if you've had a child and you're a woman, go and check it out because I think you'll say 'Whoa, this is doing something to me, this is good.'"

When asked to quickly describe the film, the actor said "Child, children, childbirth, babies, giving birth. Being pregnant and giving birth. And then having a baby." Definitely a strong theme then, Joel!

Joel Fry in The End We Start From

(Image credit: BBC Film/Republic Pictures/Landmark Media/Alamy)

The End We Start From: Reviews

Ahead of its cinematic release, The End We Start From received a number of positive reviews. 

Peter Bradshaw from the Guardian offered four stars. He said "Comer’s vulnerability and idealism are authentic as are her determination and a dash of real ruthlessness – for a moment, she becomes one of the scary people to be encountered on the road, and not particularly regretting it afterwards. She carries everything with unselfconscious strength and style."

Neil Smith from Total Film also offered four stars. His opinion was "A new mum’s survival instincts face an incredible test in this mournful but powerful end-of-the-world parable. A brief cameo from producer Benedict Cumberbatch provides some additional mid-film star wattage. Yet who needs it when you have Comer, a force of nature to rival any city-swamping deluge?"

On review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, one audience reviewer said "A beautiful film about the power of a mother's love and determination to do whatever it takes to protect her child. Refreshing, engaging, and deeply moving. A must see!"

Another added "A poignant and riveting post apocalyptic thriller. Jodie Comer's performance alone is worth the watch." 

In more entertainment news, we've revealed everything you need to know about the confirmed Harry Potter HBO series. It's looking like there will be a Big Little Lies season 3 - we have all the details that have been released so far. After a brilliant Christmas Special, many have been asking when will Doctor Who return, and Ncuti Gatwa takes the reigns permanently in a confirmed spring date. 

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.