Tag Archives: dystopian film

Jessie’s Boys

Jessica Forever

by Hope Madden

Shudder’s latest premiere, the French film Jessica Forever, offers a scifi antidote to war films. This is a quietly absorbing genre piece concerned with the lives left to those who know nothing more than fighting for survival, those who must endure not only what battle has done to them, but what battle has encouraged them to do.

In an unnamed future, Jessica (Aomi Muyock, Love), collects and rehabilitates “orphans” — feral young men with nothing and no one. Left entirely on their own, they wreak bloody havoc on society and are hunted by government-controlled drones.

We open on one such young man, Kevin (Eddy Suiveng). He’s thrown himself through a pane of glass in what looks to be a recently abandoned home. As a heavily armed tactical unit descends on the premises, only to softly embrace the combatant, writers/directors Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel introduce the visual and tonal fluidity the film will emphasize throughout its running time.

The dystopian cinematic landscape is highly populated, but Jessica Forever manages to carve out a unique space.

Muyock’s enigmatic central figure, so quietly effecting, provides the film its compelling center of gravity. Around her orbits a loose family of young men, and as Poggi and Vinel weave in and out of their day-to-day, we’re tuned into the filmmakers’ primary interest.

Unlike so very many movies out there, it is not the glamour or danger of war that attracts these filmmakers. Instead, Jessica Forever focuses on the mental and emotional wreckage these young men carry around with them as they cling to each other and their varying ideas of family, home and normalcy.

Everything about the design of this low budget scifi poem is astonishing. Working with cinematographer Marine Atlan, who shot the pair’s short After School Knife Fight, Poggi and Vinel create and sustain a hypnotic mood.

An absurd beauty to some of the shots helps the filmmakers offset its deliberate pacing. The entire crew, sound design in particular, pulls their weight as well, and the cumulative effect moves this lightly plotted ensemble piece in daring directions.

Just Turn Around Now

The Survivalist

by Hope Madden

Lean, mean futuristic science fiction that feels unsettlingly like reality, The Survivalist ranks among the best dystopian films in recent memory. And as writer/director Stephen Fingleton creates an utterly plausible and devastatingly grim future, the film marks a first time filmmaker with an awful lot to say.

A solitary figure (Martin McCann – amazing) ekes out an existence in a shack hidden in the woods of Northern Ireland. His small field of crops is fertilized by the bodies of interlopers who happen upon him. He spends his days tending his vegetables and reinforcing his traps, but a haunted past and his own isolation are starting to wear at him.

Enter two hungry women: Kathryn (Olwen Fouere) and her daughter, Milja (Mia Goth).

His first inclination is to do with them what we’ve seen him do with others who come too close to his holdout. But he’s tempted, made an offer for something not necessary for survival. Something he wants more than he needs.

For Milja and her mother, this is still nothing more than survival, which is what puts the three people on different planes of existence. The survivalist (for we never do know his name) has entered the treacherous and vulnerable area of want, and then the even more dangerous ground of hope.

The shifting power and landscape of the relationships is fascinating, made all the more powerful for lack of dialog. Who is in control? The answer varies scene by scene.

The title could stand for any of the three, and this trio of performances consistently impresses.

Fingleton lingers on glances and body language to reinforce the pitiless practicality that has taken the place of civilization. McCann’s silent chemistry with each character offers more insight into his character than pages of dialog could, and he’s matched in his efforts – particularly by Fouere.

The film, like its protagonists, is unapologetically efficient. But Fingleton and his director of photography Damien Elliott occasionally offer a glimpse of the beauty left in this dystopia – a beauty that existed long before and will persist long after man’s involvement.

Together, cast and crew trap you in slow-boil of primal instincts with an explosion the inevitable consequence.