Very spoilery! If you’re looking for my Finch review, it’s here.
Sand, sand, as far as the eye can see… a hero with a very ordinary name… No not that one.
I said in my review that Finch is about life going on, one generation handing over the baton to the next when they know their own journey is at an end. It’s a hopeful ending, the idea that, to misquote Dr Malcolm in Jurassic Park, family will find a way. It’s also a very humane film. Finch is grouchy and frightened, through pain and fear that he will die before Jeff is ready to take care of Goodyear. Jeff, created to be as human as possible, is initially an overgrown child, overwhelmed by the amount of learning he needs to do to fulfil his role. While Finch, ground down by 15 years of fear, believes it was not the solar flare that destroyed society but people’s behaviour after it happened, his creation Jeff is actually becoming more human.
Check out my synopsis of the plot and the ending in case you missed anything.
“Did you know the population of St Louis is over 60,000?” says Jeff the robot, travelling in Finch’s RV. Looking out of the window he adds plaintively, “where is everybody?” “It’s a long story,” replies Finch wryly.
Finch knows from the start of the film that he’s seriously ill and is dying. His repeated trips outside his bunker into the radiation and scorching heat of St Louis, have left him with radiation sickness (the solar flare has left the ozone layer like “Swiss cheese”).
He builds Jeff specifically to take care of his dog Goodyear: Jeff is programmed that in Finch’s absence he must protect Goodyear.
Outside it’s 147 degrees. Though Finch and Goodyear have been fine in their bunker for years, an incoming storm is forecast to destroy even that; so even though Jeff isn’t finished they have to leave in Finch’s RV. They wait only until Jeff can walk before they set off; Finch wants to head west over the mountains, avoiding cities, because cities = people. (We don’t actually see any of these surviving scavengers in the film, just a mum and daughter in a flashback soon after the solar flare, murdered in a store when a man with a shotgun demands the food they’ve collected. Finch found Goodyear as a puppy in the dead girl’s backpack.)
Leaving the bunker, they first travel to a town and break into the cinema there as Finch teaches Jeff about finding supplies. Inside they find some unused, 15-years-out-of-date popcorn and pop it outside in the heat.
After the mountains, Finch wants to head for San Francisco. He has a few photos of landmarks that he shows Jeff during their trip, and a postcard of the Golden Gate Bridge, sent by his dad when Finch was a child. (The postcard tells Finch to see the world, and suggests they should meet up at some point. Finch later tells Jeff that he never did see the world, and he also never heard from his father again.)
Jeff is learning all the time what it means to be human, but it’s a confusing time for him — and for Goodyear who is initially very suspicious. He gets to name himself though, deciding on Jeff. Learning what it means to be human means understanding why Finch is so mean to him. Finch, after all, made him. But Finch is wracked with pain and worry about Goodyear, as well as the constant threat from extreme heat, radiation, tornados, sandstorms and people.
Later they stop at an old diner. Finch gets out leaving Goodyear with Jeff. But Jeff decides to teach himself to drive the RV, and the dog sneaks out. Finch is first tickled by what has happened but it’s an emotion that soon flips to rage: Jeff has only one job and that’s to protect Goodyear, who would also be made ill by radiation. His bad-tempered, worried parent routine — “I know you were born yesterday but it’s time for you to GROW UP!” — soon becomes more crushing, telling Jeff that looking after Goodyear is “the only reason you exist”.
He does relent later though, letting Jeff learn to drive.
Later the two of them sit out under the stars round a fire. Jeff wonders why they can’t travel at night when the atmosphere is less dangerous. Finch angrily points out if it would help he’d already be doing it. At night, in the shadows, the risks are not the sun but people — starving people. He is teaching Jeff to trust no one, but he’s also, without realising it, teaching Jeff about family and tradition.
With Finch ill and asleep, Jeff parks up in the next deserted city they reach. He creeps out and visits a building, hoping to scavenge. Dewey the robot dog is with him but is damaged and “dies”. Jeff finds a large parker coat and puts it on, filling the pockets with tins of supplies. They are not alone though; Finch wakes up, hurries inside and realises its a trap. He and Jeff make it back to the RV, but as they drive off another truck comes out of a nearby alley. Jeff is driving into the mountains when Finch realises they’re being followed. It’s now dark, and they have to circle back to an underpass to hide in, hoping the other truck will go away. Finch wants Jeff to go through the tunnel and can’t understand why he doesn’t; in the end they go under but it’s too low and the solar panels on the van’s roof are destroyed. Their pursuers can’t find them though, and drive away.
Jeff is driving in the mountains when a large butterfly hits their windscreen. Finch is amazed as there has been no wildlife for years. Outside more butterflies whirl and as they travel further they find green plants growing. The open air is no longer a deathtrap.
Finch is becoming more and more ill. On a rest stop they sit outside the RV under a white parasol, Finch wearing his posh cream suit and cream trilby (bought to impress Finch’s father, who never appeared). Finch explains to Jeff that his mother told him his father had Viking blood and shows him a postcard of a Viking funeral; Jeff meanwhile has been having dreams. After their talk Jeff wants to leave immediately for San Francisco but Finch bluntly tells him he’s dying and asks Jeff to promise to do what is right for Goodyear.
Finch starts to teach Jeff how to play with Goodyear. At first it goes badly, but gradually both get the hang of it. Helped by Jeff, Finch, coughing blood, wants to return to the RV. Jeff asks if he can do something and Finch tells him he already has. They hug, then Finch goes into the van and soon dies. Outside, Jeff hears Goodyear howling over his master. Jeff gives Finch as near as possible a Viking funeral: the body wrapped, topped with Finch’s helmet, and burnt on a pyre.
Jeff and Goodyear continue on to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, stopping off en route to play. There is plenty of plant life in San Francisco, and Jeff leaves a wooden in memoriam sign: “Finch Weinberg, loved by Goodyear and Jeff”. Stuck to the bridge are masses of notes, photos and postcards from people moving on, leaving messages for their loved ones with where to find them.
Jeff fixes Finch’s postcard from his dad to the bridge, and has also added line drawings to it of him, Finch and Goodyear. Jeff and Finch walk off into the distance, looking for survivors, with Jeff starting to tell Goodyear a story.
Finch is available on Apple TV now.