Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Z for Zachariah

Spoiler-free.

In this sparse and rural post-apocalyptic film, Ann () is a young woman living by herself on a farm with her dog. The farm is in a pocket of clean air surrounded by toxic radioactive air. She may be the last woman on earth -- but she isn't the last person on earth. John, () a scientist stumbles onto her land, and the two soon settle into a life there, planning improvements and thinking long-term. Really long-term. But then another man () shows up, throwing a wrench in their comfortably forming plans.

The whole, entire cast of this film.

There are two reasons why I got around to seeing this smaller, low-key film: One, the cast. A small cast numbers wise, but a big one name-wise. And two, the fact that it was a sci-fi, dystopian, post-apocalyptic type movie. On this front came the first wave of disappointment. This is a sci-fi film technically because it takes place after a fictional nuclear war, but that doesn't result in any sci-fi effects. It is the result of sci-fi effects. The most sci-fi thing that happens is people walking around in hazmat suits. Otherwise it's just some country people roughing it on a farm in the mountains. That's not a bad thing in itself -- it just didn't dig deep enough into its genre to satisfy me.

Really, it's a straight-up drama with a plot that is enabled by science fiction. And on that side, it was interesting for a while. It has some complex characters that worked well against each other to create drama, and their interactions posed some interesting -- if not particularly deep or important -- questions. The cast did a good job with their characters, keeping them involving, and through them the story as well. Eventually though, as they do, the film had to end. And that's where everything fell apart.

Apparently it was based on a novel. I wonder how accurate the adaptation is. (I looked it up. Not very. But I get what they were going for with the film better now. Doesn't change my opinion though!)

They had introduced a bunch of problems needed resolution, and a good amount of character drama with potential. The most interesting was the love-triangle, and the unique relationships between each of them as the two men vie for the attentions of the last girl on earth. The characters are so evenly done that I didn't have a guess as to who she would choose, nor a real preference. I was very interested to see where that would lead. Unfortunately, it led to a jumbled, non-committal ending. And not on any of the character's part -- this was all the film. The movie spent so much time exploring the slow journey of the characters and the details of their reactions to plot events, yet it's like it couldn't commit when it came to deciding where all that would lead to in finality. It just dropped everything and quit.

It was like everything stopped at the second act just when things were really getting interesting. I suppose there could be some people who see some kind of point or meaning or social commentary or whatnot, but I didn't, and it didn't leave me curious enough to try and find one.

The cast by themselves were good. Margot Robbie was the standout, and Ejiofor and Pine had some occasional ups and downs but they all were quite commendable and enjoyable. The thing I really can't figure out is why they wanted to do this film in the first place. I don't understand what attracted them to this project at all. And since it felt like the movie resolved nothing at all and ended before getting to the good stuff, they and their talent felt like a total waste in the end.

They never explain the title either.

The location and setting was nice, and the look of everything was probably the film's most memorable aspect. Though, there was an unnatural quality to it that made it a little hard on the eyes. Too much contrast or something. I did like the purple tone.

So, this film wasn't a total waste, though it might as well have been, considering how everything it had going for it for so long was left in the dust as this small-scale apocalypse tale breezed on toward promising conflict and resolution without us. Maybe the camera ran out of battery.

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