(director/writer: Kelsey Egan; screenwriter: Emma Lungiswa De Wet; cinematographer: Justus de Jager; editor: Rowan Jackson; music: Patrick Cannell; cast: Jessica Alexander (Bee), Kitty Harris (Daisy), Adrienne Pearce (Mother), Hilton Pelser (Luca), (Brent Vermeulen (Gabe), Anja Taljaard (Evie); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producer; Greig Buckle: Crave Pictures; 2021-South Africa-in English)
“This film about memory and memory loss is a hard film to forget.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The South African filmmaker Kelsey Egan, in her feature film directing debut, presents this low budget creative dystopian survival futuristic sci-fi film from South Africa that asks “Can We Survive in The Age of Pandemics?” It then lists all the wide-spread pandemics that have been recent killers, such as: MERS, SARS, COVID-19, and also the fictional one in the movie called The Shred, the disease responsible for the current state of the world.
Kelsey co-writes the thriller with Emma Lungiswa De Wet. It was filmed at the Pearson Conservatory in St. Georges Park in South Africa. The weird film, with many different possible meanings to its high concept premise, offers a provocative plot, themes that make us feel uneasy and it leaves us with haunting images in a pandemic setting. It follows the theme of strong women fighting for survival when isolated and without men, as in the Beguiled (1971)–because of the Civil War, while here it’s because of the pandemic.
The airborne Shred is a toxin when breathed in robs a person of their memory. The vic is referred to as a forgetter. The plague is currently sweeping across the land and the population can barely remember what normalcy is like. It seems that the younger you are the fewer memories you have, thereby the more you are affected by the toxins.
It leaves a strong mother (Adrienne Pearce) and her family—her three daughters, the older twenty something Bee (Jessica Alexander) and her slightly younger sis Evie (Anja Taljaard), and the youngest at ten, Daisy (Kitty Harris), who seek safety living in a hermetically sealed glass house where they do gardening to get their food supply and our spiritually uplifted by mom sharing with them stories of their traditional upbringing. They must also kill the “forgetters” who become unwanted male trespassers on their property. Also living with them is their brother Gabe (Brent Vermeulen), infected with The Shred when he was younger, whose mental and physical conditioning is rapidly worsening even as he is cared for by the family.
Things in the family change when Bee, breaking mom’s rules, allows into their glass house the wounded in the leg Luca (Hilton Pelser), who she feels connected to and who has some surprising secrets. But his presence upsets her family.
We observe in this provocative film how important memory is for us as civilized humans, and how if we forget our history we can become so limited. It also points out how rituals can be either beneficial to mankind or destructive.
This film about memory and memory loss is a hard film to forget.
It’s a curiously bizarre film, whose problem is the acting was either too melodramatic or wooden–the characters never seemed like real people. Also the interesting concept never became more interesting after its engaging set-up. Yet it still had enough ideas going for it throughout to be worth watching.
It had its world premiere at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 8/28/2021 GRADE: B