“When You Finish Saving the World” Review

Jesse Eisenberg’s new film follows a mother and son in their quest to replace each other while trying to find meaning in their own relationship.


The world referred to in the title of Jesse Eisenberg’s directorial debut, “When You Finish Saving the World,” is claustrophobic. The 2022 film follows a mother and son, Evelyn and Ziggy Katz, as they try and fail to relate to each other through their self absorbed lives. Evelyn, the director of a domestic violence shelter, insists on sharing the classical music she loves, but her microscopic car can hardly fit much more than Evelyn herself. To Evelyn’s disappointment, Ziggy’s life revolves around his live-streaming presence, where he performs his original music alone for a global audience.

The lives of both Ziggy and Evelyn are uncomfortable and excruciating to watch. Evelyn, who seems to have only the best intentions, is edgy and controlling around the shelter. As Ziggy superficially tries to “become political” to impress his classmates, Evelyn tries to replace him with the teenage son of a woman staying at the shelter. 

The most important subject the two disagree on in the film is arguably the music. Throughout the film, Evelyn’s classical music gets wilder and more erratic as she looks for someone to appreciate it with her. Meanwhile, Ziggy’s biggest song becomes a poem stolen from the girl he wants to impress. Watching the two argue over each other’s music choices as their arrogant behavior suffocates everyone else out of their separate worlds feels like being in on a prank that is about to be pulled on screen.

“When You Finish Saving the World” is an example of how not to live. In Evelyn and Ziggy’s exaggerated personalities, there are glimpses of honest desires to help save the world. However, the comedy of their extreme tone deafness makes it clear that they don’t know anything outside of each other. As you grit your teeth watching, you’re reminded that in order to save the world, you need to be in touch with it.