|Learning to share your essential self is never hackneyed.|
The essence of the form is the voyage of self-discovery. The protagonist should have a clear, specific stated goal, but in the best road stories, that evolves into a pretext, and is sometimes abandoned altogether. Carell's Dodge (convenient name for a man who has dodged relationships?) and Knightley's Penny (who lets people devalue her) both need to see some people before the world ends (and hats off to writer-director Lorene Scafaria for not hedging that one -- it's never in doubt that the world is going to end). But they find other things on the way, naturally. I suppose it would be obvious that they found each other, but that doesn't feel as obvious and pre-destined as it does in most films of this kind. (Remember The Sure Thing back in the 80s?)
In this case, some goals are achieved, some abandoned, and some are discarded. What keeps it from being predictable might be attributed to Steve Carell's nose and Keira Knightley's teeth. Both of them are a little "off" as romantic objects, and that helps to maintain the author's intended misdirection. (Yes, I know Knightley can be cleaned up to be stunning, but she doesn't have to look that way all the time, which is an advantage for an ambitious actress.) I would even dispute that they are even a romantic match in this movie. What they are is valuable companions when companionship is really needed.
And if the structure is a bit picaresque, rambling or even just plain arbitrary, well, how organized do you expect the end of the world to be?
The best reason to see this film, especially with someone who is important to you is in order to lead into that conversation about what you yourself would do given a limited time left. I might want to be lying face to face with my SO, but I might want to be on that enchanting beach (shown in the picture above) with dozens of people and their children laughing and playing music and eating and being baptized and enjoying being alive and by the ocean and with each other and having been alive before they were dead. That seems like an awfully good idea, and part of me wishes the movie had simply ended there.