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Jesse Eisenberg makes his writing and directorial feature debut with the comedy-drama When You Finish Saving the World. The film has several aspects that include elements from his personal life. For example, Eisenberg wrote the Marshall Islands poem. He recently explained how he wrote it and how it relates to a fascinating exercise that he used to do.

What is the Marshall Islands poem in ‘When You Finish Saving the World’?

'When You Finish Saving the World' filmmaker Jesse Eisenberg wearing a red cap
Jesse Eisenberg | Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

When You Finish Saving the World tells the story of Evelyn (Julianne Moore) and Ziggy (Finn Wolfhard). The mother and son yearn for a connection with one another but they can’t seem to bridge the increasing gap between them. Evelyn seeks that mother-son relationship with a resident named Kyle (Billy Bryk) at the shelter she runs. Meanwhile, Ziggy seeks attention from his intelligent high school crush named Lila (Alisha Boe).

Ziggy attends an event that Lila enjoys going to a club called Revolutionary Arts, where young folks share political anthems. He plays a song unrelated to politics. Meanwhile, she shares a slam poem about the colonization of the Marshall Islands. As a result, Lila’s poem further inspires Ziggy to learn about politics and wants to connect with Lila on a deeper level.

Jesse Eisenberg explains the story behind writing the Marshall Islands poem

Eisenberg, Wolfhard, Moore, and producers Emma Stone and Dave McCary participated in a Sundance Q&A following the world premiere of When You Finish Saving the World. Director of Programming Kim Yutani moderated the discussion and took questions from a live chat. The audience wanted to know the background of the Marshall Islands poem. Eisenberg had quite the story explaining how it came to exist through a country-based exercise.

“A long time ago, I had the plan to write a song about every country to the tune of their national anthem, so I can learn about the countries,” Eisenberg said. “I started with the A’s and maybe finished at Andorra because it was a really taxing thing.”

Eisenberg continued: “Anyway, my favorite things are writing funny things and wordplay and geopolitics. So, that song and poem, those are very accurate things that occurred in The Marshall Islands. They have a very unusual history.”

A24 will release ‘When You Finish Saving the World’


‘When You Finish Saving the World’: Finn Wolfhard Reveals if He Wrote the Songs, Jesse Eisenberg Corrects Him

Eisenberg’s When You Finish Saving the World premiered at Sundance on Jan. 20 while already having distribution set at A24. The movie is based on Eisenberg’s Audible Original series by the same name. However, the audio drama followed three different perspectives throughout the family at varying stages of their lives. There are similarities between the two projects, but Eisenberg made some changes for the When You Finish Saving the World film adaptation.

Eisenberg’s directorial debut doesn’t currently have a release date set in stone. However, A24’s website does mention that the comedy drama is set to hit theaters sometime in 2022.