Nostalgia, Happiness, and Edgar Wrights’ The World’s End

by Wael A

This paper explores the influence of nostalgia on happiness, specifically the effect it has on a person’s future happiness. The paper investigates how objects of nostalgia may trigger emotions that can be detrimental to one’s happiness, especially when these objects play a larger role in their lives. By analyzing the 2013 film The World’s End, directed by Edgar Wright, this paper explores how holding on to these objects can be harmful to one’s well being. The film helps to spark this debate by highlighting the fear of losing these objects, and shows how the protagonist deals with the potential loss of his object, while in contrast, those characters who are able to move on and let go of objects, such as their high school memories, can obtain happiness in the future. Ultimately, this paper finds that nostalgic objects can have an adverse effect on a person, and therefore inhibit any possibility of happiness in the future. However, this paper argues that through a journey, similar to a rehabilitation process, one is able to move on and embrace the present in order to improve their happiness.


The sense of nostalgia commonly refers to something in the past. A point in our lives that has added significance, usually due to the feeling of happiness associated to it. These are called objects of nostalgia (Wildschut et al, 976). It could be a person, an event, a materialistic object, or even a setting. Whilst these objects can help to create the feeling of happiness they can also have the opposite effect. The problem with these objects and the happiness they generate is that people may try to recreate or hold on to them. This doesn’t mean that one must completely dissociate from the object, but moving on from the past and living in the present can create new objects of nostalgia. Within the film The World’s End this sort of rehabilitation is seen in Gary as he finally comes to terms with the present, and starts a new chapter of his life near the end of the film. Just before the climax Gary’s friends help him to understand that not everything is about that one night when he was seventeen, and that “there comes a time when you have to go forwards, not backwards”. Upon surviving the destruction of Earth, which sends the world back to the Dark Ages, Gary appears to have put his alcoholic lifestyle behind him and has formed a new band of friends; albeit younger robotic versions of his old ones. In this way, Wright perhaps intended to convey the idea that choosing to live in the present rather than the past helps you grow out of self-harming habits, and therefore allows new social bonds to be created.

Works Cited

Tim Wildschut, Constantine Sedikides, Clay Routledge, Jamie Arndt. “Nostalgia: Content, Triggers, Functions.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 91.5 (2006): 975-993.



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