Vivarium (2019) **** Digital release

March 22nd, 2020
Author: Meredith Taylor
Dir: Lorcan Finnegan | Wri: Garret Shanley  | Cast: Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Senan Jennings, Eanna Harwicke, Jonathan Aris | Drama 

Ever wondered what it’s like to live in a bland new-build housing estate? Well Lorcan Finnegan’s weirdly dystopian domestic sci-fi thriller gives you an idea. Vivarium feels like a cross between Black Mirror, Funny Games and The Truman Show with the hyper-realist look of Jessica Hausner’s Little Joe.
Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg are the best thing about this strange drama. They play an ordinary down to earth couple looking to buy a house. But what starts as cheerful and upbeat soon descends into claustrophobic fog-bound horror when the creepy estate agen (Jonathan Aris),abandons them during a viewing and they get lost and then isolated in a maze of similar streets and are somehow lured into moving into one of the pristine show-houses, where everything is provided (although gemutlichkeit is not the operative word), and raise its existing inhabitant, a cuckoo-like android from Hell or even Omen II (Irish actor Senan Jennings), that bears a striking resemblance to the estate agent who disappeared, and also speaks with an adult voice.

This classic genre piece clearly nods at authors like John Wyndam and H P Lovecraft and although Eisenberg’s character soon becomes affected by the spookiness of it all, digging a hole in the synthetic soil as a displacement activitiy, Poots, a junior school teacher, gets the bit between her teeth and refuses be brought down by this malign and impossible alien child. Occasional aerial shots show the uncanny village with its identical houses that go on apparently for miles. The couple’s sane and well-adjusted relationship starts to implode when the child becomes an adult and a war of attrition plays out as he questions them inanely in barbed and sarcastic way.

Vivarium is certainly compelling and intelligent, although Eisenberg’s sensitive talents are slightly out of kilter with his rugged, outdoorsy character. Poots has a more complex character arc and she provides the much needed integrity and ballast to counter the weirdness that is going on all around her. The film looks startlingly good, but the Garret Stanley’s script doesn’t quite max out the potential of the film’s universal themes: what’s it like to cope with the financial and emotional pressures of child raising and house buying. At its core though is the closeness of this couple in love and once that starts to implode then all hell breaks loose. In a quiet but terrifying way. MT

VIVARIUM will be released digitally on March 27th 2020 courtesy of  Vertigo Releasing | iTunes/Apple TV, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, Google Play, Rakuten, BT, Playstation, Microsoft, Curzon Home Cinema, BFI Player

 

Copyright © 2022 Filmuforia