(director/writer: Kristina Buozyte, Bruno Samper; screenwriters: Brian Clark, from a story by Buozute, Samper; cinematographer: Feliksas Abrukauskas; editor: Suzanne Fenn; music: Dan Levy; cast: Raffiella Chapman (Vesper), Eddie Marsan (Jonas), Rosy McEwen (Camellia), Richard Brake (Darius), Melanie Gaydos (Jug); Runtime: 112 ; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Asta Liukaitytė, Daiva Varnaitė-Jovaišienė, Alexis Perrin, Kristina Buozyte; IFC Films; 2022-Lithuania-France-Belgium-in English)
“Conventionally made but excellent visionary film that’s unique, eerie and dystopian futuristic as an ‘end of the world’ European sci-fi film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Lithuanian horror pic filmmaker Kristina Buozyte (“Vanishing Waves”/”Kolekcionere”) and the French writer of Vanishing Waves and her co-director Bruno Samper are also co-writers (along with Brian Clark) of this conventionally made but excellent visionary film that’s unique, eerie and dystopian futuristic as an ‘end of the world’ European sci-fi film.
We learn in an opening scrawl mankind attempted to hack the world’s biosphere in order to cure a pandemic, but instead screwed things up by creating an apocalyptic event. Now, all animal species have been wiped out while new plant life has developed animal-like traits. The Earth’s ecosystem has collapsed due to man-made viruses, and a new Dark Age occurs. The poor work hard on farms. The pilgrim’s survive by covering themselves in their black cloaks. While the elite survive in comfort living in walled-off cities called Citadels, and provide nurturing genetically grown seeds to those outside their cities that will keep them alive to do their labor tasks.
We follow the 13-year-old girl Vesper (Raffiella Chapman) and her dying father Darius (Richard Brake), suffering from an unknown illness, who to survive must lean on Vesper’s wits, her inner strength and ability as a scientific hacker, as she wanders the desolate post-apocalyptic landscape of Lithuania searching alone for a possible cure for her father.
The plant-life encountered in the desolate fields include the following: flash-sucking leech-like vines, spores that pop up from underground burrows upon feeling any movement, and bushes that shoot out fiery projectiles when disturbed.
Vesper’s father, though unable to move on his own, travels with her as she built for him a hovering sphere drone, rigged with a hand-painted smiley face to bring some cheer.
The film’s villain is uncle Jonas (Eddie Marsan). The evil uncle collects blood from his band of outcast children to trade to the Citadel for seeds.
When a Citadel elitist, Camellia (Rosy McEwen), crash-lands on the marshes where Vesper resides, she’s nursed back to health by Vesper. This gives the kid genius a chance to discover that Camilla’s genes may contain the secrets of not only curing her father but others with the same life-threatening disease.
The low-budget entertaining futuristic pic makes good use of props and of presenting a strong vision of hope in a world that is in dire need today of a positive message. It’s also helped by nice performances by Chapman and McEwen.
It played at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 9/25/2022 GRADE: B+