Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Movie Review: Vivarium

Vivarium *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Lorcan Finnegan.
Written by: Garret Shanley and Lorcan Finnegan.
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg (Tom), Imogen Poots (Gemma), Jonathan Aris (Martin), Côme Thiry (Baby), Senan Jennings (Young Boy), Eanna Hardwicke (Older Boy).
Whether Vivarium was supposed to come out at this time or not, it is kind of the perfect film for the moment – when we’re all stuck inside, going nowhere. The film is about a couple – Tom and Gemma (Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots) trapped inside a house they cannot leave, with a kid who drives them increasingly crazy. The film has Twilight Zone/Black Mirror type overtones, and was clearly always meant as a metaphor for parenting – but it’s taken on even more resonance in this time when parents are stuck inside with their children all day, every day.
The film begins simply enough – Tom and Gemma are looking to buy a house somewhere in the London suburbs, but have yet to find a place. They walk into one of those sales offices for a new development – models of row upon row of the same house, idyllic pictures on the wall, and a way too happy salesperson, who insists on calling this neighborhood by a chipper name. The salesman is Martin (Jonathan Aris) – and clearly, he isn’t normal – but they just assume he’s another salesman, looking for sale. They agree to follow him to the neighborhood to go on a tour. The area is creepy – the houses are even more uniform than normal in these types of planned communities, and their house - #9 – isn’t what they are looking for. But they, they realize that Martin has abandoned them there. And despite their best efforts, they cannot leave the neighborhood – they drive around and around for hours – always ending back at #9. Soon packages of food arrive – and then another package, with a baby boy and a note – “Raise the child, and be set free”. What choice do they have?
Of course the boy isn’t normal – and neither is the neighborhood. The baby grows rapidly – and most of the action takes place a few months later, when the baby now looks like a child around 8 or 9. But he doesn’t behave like a normal child, screams an otherworldly sound when he doesn’t get what he wants, and basically drives Tom and Gemma increasingly mad. What the hell is going on?
The film was directed by Lorcan Finnegan, who does a good job at maintaining the strange, surreal tone of the movie – everything looks normal, but isn’t, and the tension mounts. He is aided a great deal by Eisenberg and especially Poots as the couple, trying to figure things out. Eisenberg has a shorter fuse – gets frustrated easier, and soon he’s spending all his time in the backyard, digging a giant hole – he assumes that eventually, he’ll get somewhere. This leaves Gemma increasingly alone with the Boy, and she waivers back and forth between trying to do right by him, and going insane. It’s a fine performance.
The premise is probably a little thin for a 90-minute movie. I mentioned The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror – and that is probably where this story belonged, somewhere in the 30-60-minute range, and was the prolonged setup is over, the film does end up repeating itself more than a little bit, before the end game begins (and really, you probably should be able to see what the last few scenes in the movie are going to be before they arrive).
Still though, Vivarium is an odd little sci fi, horror film primed for this moment that will make it even more effective that it already was – and that is pretty effective all by itself.

No comments:

Post a Comment