Runtime: 1h 37m
Director: Lorcan Finnegan
Writers: Lorcan Finnegan, Garret Shanley
Stars: Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Aris
“I didn’t know if it was okay for me to go over and, like, talk to you. You looked so glum and so cute. I can’t even remember what I said.”
“You didn’t say anything, you just stood next to me.”
“Oh, shit. That’s creepy.”
Initial: I’m just happy to have a movie for V that isn’t a vampire movie. (I wrote that when I watched this movie back in March. Now, I kinda wish I had a vampire movie…)
Production Notes: An Irish–Danish–Belgian co-production.
What Did I Think: (spoilers likely)
Vivarium starts with (presumably) a young cuckoo pushing an egg and another chick from a nest. Later, the older cuckoo chick is fed by the much smaller surrogate mother bird. That is this movie’s vibe. And in a way, this is a changeling movie, only instead of a baby being switched out in the real world, potential parents are taken to a pocket dimension (?) that is the worst suburban nightmare. And that’s an interesting premise, only helped by no explanation ever being given for what’s going on. But the execution is lacking.
The visual aesthetic is disconcerting, but the sameness and emptiness of the suburb never provides any tension. The speech and behaviors of the boy are likewise off-putting, but he’s only truly frightening when we see Gemma (Imogen Poots) reacting in fear or distress, and she doesn’t react very often. Vivarium plays with the notion of very strange circumstances wearing characters down and even becoming boring, but that doesn’t led itself to scares or even unease. One of the more fraught moments is when Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) locks the boy in the car to die—if the couple are to raise the child in order to be released, what will killing the child do? We don’t find out because the movie shies away from that path.
By far not the worst film I’ve ever seen, but I feel it could be so much better.