How is ‘Friends’ a part of the Julia Roberts starrer ‘Leave the World Behind?’


In Julia Roberts’ latest film venture, “Leave the World Behind,” the narrative intertwines real-life fears with extraordinary circumstances, taking the anxiety around potential cyber threats to new heights. Based on the book of the same title, this Netflix movie plunges the Sanford family into a chaotic situation when their vacation home escape is disrupted by ominous cyber attacks.

Playing the role of Amanda Sanford, Roberts portrays a mother determined to provide her family with a peaceful getaway. Alongside her husband Clay (played by Ethan Hawke) and their two children, their idyllic retreat takes a perilous turn when a series of cyber incidents begin to threaten the world’s stability. Complicating matters further, another family arrives at the vacation home, claiming ownership, intensifying the tension and uncertainty.

Mahershala Ali’s character, G.H. Scott, a financial advisor, arrives at the house with his daughter Ruth (played by Myha’la Herrold). Their unannounced arrival in the dead of night creates suspicion among the two families, further escalating the already high-strung atmosphere. Interestingly, Barack Obama’s character notes played a role in shaping the characters, adding depth to the narrative. And unexpectedly, the influence of the beloved sitcom “Friends” subtly permeates the film, serving as a pivotal element in the storyline.


The significance of “Friends” in “Leave the World Behind” stems from its cultural impact. Esmail, the director, elaborated in an interview with USA Today on how a passing reference in Rumaan Alam’s book was transformed into a significant plotline in the movie. The disruption of the vacation home’s Wi-Fi signals the start of global chaos and presents a poignant dilemma for Rose, the young daughter, who’s on the verge of watching the series finale of “Friends.” Esmail highlighted the emotional connection Rose feels toward the show, symbolizing a retreat to a comforting and familiar zone, underscoring a crucial aspect of the film’s essence.

Moreover, there’s a subtle tie-in to “Friends” that extends beyond the narrative. Julia Roberts, a prominent figure in Hollywood, guest-starred in one of the show’s episodes during its second season, alongside her then-boyfriend Matthew Perry. Although their romantic relationship didn’t endure, both Roberts and Perry maintained mutual respect and admiration for each other. Esmail’s inclusion of this reference adds a touch of levity to the film, balancing the darker themes with a relatable and human connection.