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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 12.13.19] scifi mystery



There's simply no sugar coating the truth of it: Lorcan Finnegan's sophomore effort Vivarium is weird. From the opening credits it's clear Finnegan is out to challenge the viewer and challenge he does.


Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots star as Tom and Gemma, a happy couple looking to start the next step of their life together by purchasing a new home. Curious about a development called Yonder, the couple walks into the sales office for a look and almost immediately find themselves cornered into a road trip "near enough" to see one of the Yonder homes for themselves. The entire thing is a bit awkward and when Martin the sales agent, suddenly disappears, the pair feel an air of relief. That is, until they try to leave.


Driving through the maze of streets lined by identical houses, all apparently uninhabited, the couple gives into exhaustion and spend the night. After many an attempt to find their way out, the car eventually runs out of gas and the pair is stranded but not destitute as food deliveries are coming regularly, miraculously appearing on their doorstep. Tom and Gemma's already dire situation becomes even more depressing with the inexplicable arrival of a baby.



While it begins as a familiar, relatable drama about a couple searching for a home, Vivarium quickly evolves into something else altogether: an allegory that tackles everything from the roles of men and women to the perils of suburban living, with added jabs at TV as a babysitter and consumerism in general.


It seems like a lot of heavy ideas to cover in one movie and it is, but Finnegan and co-writer Garret Shanley constructed the script so well that most of them aren't apparent until one starts thinking about the movie after the fact. And trust me, Vivarium gests so crazy in the second act that you'll be talking and thinking about this for a long while after the credits roll.


Jesse Eisenberg who mostly seems happy to play a version of the ambling fool, is actually quite good here as is Imogen Poots, and as a couple, the pair play very well off each other. The movie relies heavily on the emotional connection forged with the characters as it becomes the only thing keeping the audience engaged, especially when the movie goes completely off the rails.


Vivarium feels like a manifesto against uniformity and expectation; and while it is that, it tackles its messages in a new and innovative way that is both visually and thematically interesting. It's a challenging but satisfying watch.


I can't wait to see what other weirdness Finnegan delivers next.


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Fendell (5 months ago) Reply

Who greenlights this nonsense? Is there an audenice for this? Feature filmmaking has entered its end days.

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john v karavitis (5 months ago) Reply

Why nonsense? The trailer is different from what we typically see in trailers nowadays. But the premise is intriguing. Were you looking for gundam or kaiju, perhaps? John V. Karavitis

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Wumpus (5 months ago) Reply

Sounds pretty terrific to me. "The Art of Self Defense" reminded me how good Eisenberg can be, and Vivarium's premise seems interesting.

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kedda (4 months ago) Reply

no cell phones?


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