The Problem With Pandemic Films

By Natasha Kangrga

No doubt, you’ve heard of the pandemic film, also known as the genre of films about widespread viruses, plagues, and diseases. Today, we associate the pandemic film with COVID-19, and from March 16th to March 20th, several pandemic films have found their way into the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival. We don’t need them.

The End of Us

When audiences choose to watch a movie, they hope to experience something different from their own reality. A film made during a pandemic about that same pandemic is not creative. For example, the independent film, The End of Us, which premiered March of this year, is about a couple (Ben Coleman, Ali Vingiano) overdue for a breakup. However, before they can officially call things off, California issues a stay-at-home-order, so the new exes are forced to stay together. To be fair, this could be an interesting concept, but because it was filmed and released during the pandemic, it’s too much like real life. What audiences want during challenging times is to escape – not a reminder of their actual life. There are numerous films about couples navigating their way through relationships, and throwing COVID-19 into this cookie-cutter storyline doesn’t make it any more interesting.

Another problem with these films is that they feel rushed. For example, take the comedy released this spring, Recovery, about two sisters (Mallory Everton and co-writer Whitney Call) who take a cross-country road trip to rescue their grandmother from a COVID-19 outbreak at her nursing home. The film has neither enough characters nor backstory, and the scriptwriter relies too much on exaggeration in an effort to be funny. Plus, because Recovery was filmed during a pandemic, the production company had limited resources and couldn’t realize the film’s full potential. 

Finally, the reason why I most dislike pandemic films: who wants to watch movies about something that ruined – and continues to ruin – so much for everyone?! COVID-19 has mostly had a negative impact on society. People have lost jobs, lost opportunities to see each other, and many have even lost friends and family members. Watching films that are making a joke of the situation we are in, at least while we’re still in the pandemic, is immature and may only make people feel worse. It seems as if writers and directors are taking advantage of real life events to turn them into some cheesy comedy while people all over the world are still losing close friends and family to this virus.

This is not the pandemic film’s time. Can you imagine people during World War ll rushing to a cinema to watch a movie about suffering in a war? No, I don’t think so. The day we all feel safe attending a 1st of July celebration or brushing shoulders with someone at the CNE will be the pandemic film’s time.