Moments of tenderness are hard to find in Adam McKay’s Netflix feature film “Don’t Look Up”. The few scenes of gentleness that do nudge their way into the movie all centre around one minor and mostly overlooked character. Appropriately, for a movie released just before Christmas, his name is Yule.

For me, Yule is the true hero of “Don’t Look Up”. In spite of everything, Yule remains resolutely determined to look up.

As disaster begins to engulf the world, Yule meets Kate Dibiasky. Kate is the young world-weary, hardened, cynical, intellectual doctoral astronomy student who discovers a meteor hurtling towards earth and tries with her supervisor, Dr. Randall Mindy, to warn humanity of impending doom.

As Kate describes her fears of imminent destruction to Yule, she is shocked to hear him make a reference to God. A gentle, honest and touching conversation follows.

Kate: You believe in God?   

Yule: Yeah. I mean my parents raised me Evangelical, and I hate them, but I found my own way to it. My own relationship.

Kate: Hmmm

Yule: I’d appreciate it if you didn’t advertise it though.

Kate: I won’t tell anybody. I think it’s kind of sweet.   

This is a powerful portrayal of the possibility of faith even in the midst of the dark destructive tendencies of this dangerous twenty-first century. Despite the insanity all around us, it is still possible to believe in God, but you must find your “own way to it.” And, even then, faith is something about which to be slightly embarrassed, a guilty little secret best kept hidden. It is “kind of sweet”, possibly harmless, but not to be taken too seriously.

And yet… when things get really difficult, even those who have never given a thought to faith, feel some innate impulse to reach out towards transcendence.

Near the end of the film, the main protagonists gather around the dining room table in Dr. Mindy’s modest home as they prepare to meet the destruction that now seems inevitable. It is a tender scene of human solidarity, openness, vulnerability and connection. Around the table they exchange accounts of things for which they are thankful. After Kate shares that she is thankful that they all “tried”, there is an awkward silence followed by this exchange:

Dr. Mindy: Well, we’re not the most religious here in the Mindy household, but maybe we should say ‘Amen’? [looking at his wife]: Should we do that?

Mrs. Mindy [obviously flustered and embarrassed]: Don’t look at me. I don’t know how to… What, you just say, ‘Amen’? I don’t…

Then Mrs. Mindy falls silent.

Kate tries to speak, nervously scratching her chest, until Yule finally comes to the rescue.

Yule: I got this. I got it. [They all join hands around the table and close their eyes.]

Yule: Dearest Father and Almighty Creator, we ask for Your grace tonight, despite our pride. Your forgiveness, despite our doubt. Most of all Lord… we ask for Your Love to soothe us through these dark times. May we face whatever is to come in Your divine will with courage and open hearts of acceptance.

There is no comedy here, no smart-aleck sarcasm, no scathing rebuttal. Kate leans over after Yule’s prayer, kisses him on the cheek and says, “That was beautiful.” And it is “beautiful”, beautiful and totally unexpected. Like the tail of a comet that has long since burned itself out, there remains in this bleak world, a hint of faith, a possibility of trust in something that might bring courage and heart-opening.

For me, this astonishing scene near the end of a truly bleak film, makes the whole movie worthwhile. Perhaps this touching moment points towards our only true hope as we appear to be unable to alter the trajectory of our lives that sees us hurtling towards what appears to be ultimate destruction.


if you watch “Don’t Look Up”, you might want to follow up your viewing by reading:

and then, unrelated to the film but travelling in the same territory to which I point in my reflections, if you are a person who aspires to faith, especially in an institutional context, read this sobering caution about the nature of faith: