#SheWatches Vivarium

May 5, 2020


Vivarium is a 2019 film from Irish writer and director Lorcan Finnegan in collaboration with co – screenwriter Garret Shanley. The film is a taut science fiction thriller, which is not a genre I normally watch, but with great acting from both Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, this quirky film kept me wondering until the end. It’s a little bit Pleasantville, a whole lot of Twilight Zone and is so relevant to the time in which we are now living.

The Story 

Tom and Gemma are a young couple in love. Gemma is a perky primary school teacher and Tom is a likeable landscape gardener. They have been searching for their perfect home without success. But this film is a lesson in, “ Be careful what you wish for.”  When they venture into a real estate advertising homes in Yonder, the strange estate agent named Martin, convinces the couple to come and view the housing estate. 

Arriving in Yonder the couple realises that all the pretty pastel houses are exactly the same and they are unnerved by the man. He suddenly disappears as they are inspecting the garden. The couple try to make a hasty retreat but every turn takes them back to house number 9. With an increasing sense of dread they drive on and on to no avail, until eventually they run out of petrol, in front of, you guessed it, house number 9. The young couple are now trapped in this surreal housing estate and forced to live in isolation.

Exhausted they enter the house and soon fall asleep determined to make their way home in the morning. A box of food appears and when Tom climbs on to the roof all he can see are the cookie cutter houses, uniform clouds and not another person as far as the eye could see. They walk all day following the sun. They arrive back at number 9. They try to burn the house down. It reappears intact. Their dream of the perfect home has forced them into a terrifying nightmare.

The next delivery is a baby boy, but this is no ordinary baby boy. This one grows at an alarming rate, mimics them perfectly and screams blood curdling screams to get what he wants. There is no escape from this suburban horror. Cracks appear in Tom and Gemma’s relationship and you can see the deterioration of the human psyche as time goes on.They are locked in with this strange creature and although this brings out some maternal feelings in Gemma, Tom is determined to leave or die trying. There are parallels to be seen with our current situation and you wonder if the writers had a premonition of what was to come. 

The Cast 

I think for me the best part of this film was the wonderful acting from the two leads. You might have seen Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network playing Mark Zuckerberg or more recently with his co star Imogen in The Art of Self Defense. Imogen Poots is an English actress who has starred in many films including, Need for Speed and horror film 28 Weeks Later. She displays a warmth and naturalness in front of the camera and the screen loves her. Jesse is likeable, quirky and a bit of a goofball. He had me laughing out loud at the beginning of the movie.

They encourage us to come along on their journey with them which is very easy to do as we have all had to stop and stay at home. The stars are effortlessly empathetic and convincing in their roles. They have an easy chemistry and are comfortable enough in their roles that it enables the viewer to suspend belief while exploring some interesting ideas. 

Vivarium may appeal to those of us looking for something different and thought provoking to watch whilst we are at home. Planet S describes the film as, “ …. a rare surrealistic horror. More structured than a David Lynch film and darker than something by Terry Gilliam, it takes petite bourgeois goals ( own a house, have a kid, become your own boss ) and reveals them as nightmares. “

This science fiction horror is available in Australia now via video on demand through Google Play, iTunes, Telstra, Fetch and Umbrella Entertainment. Vivarium will be screening through Foxtel on Demand from May 6. 

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