Directed by: Lorcan Finnegan
Written by: Garret Shanley
Starring: Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg
Reviewed by: Brad Williamson
Genre: Avant-garde / Mystery / Science-Fiction
In many ways an unbearably strange movie, Vivarium is also a true, down-to-Earth depiction of the times we now live in. Reminiscent of stage plays and with a tiny cast, Vivarium tells the story of a lost family, but where they’re lost is entirely up to the viewer.
Are they lost through a wormhole, somehow gone to a new reality in time and space? Are they emotionally lost, struggling to maintain a relationship while raising a child amidst a crisis of circumstance? Have they lost their minds, breaking with reality and going totally insane? Or maybe they’ve lost their purpose. The beauty of this mind-bending character study is that all of these answers are true, yet none is certain. In fact, as in life, nothing in Vivarium is certain.
The acting and writing are solid, and fans of Eisenberg will be pleased with his performance, but where this movie truly delivers is in the set design and cinematography. The world is so strange, so unbelievable, yet is captured believably in a way the viewer can both appreciate its mysterious beauty and understand why such a reality is terrifying; it deftly avoids the pitfall of being too confusing to scare.
Its biggest fault is the nearly 100-minute runtime for a film that only needed 80 minutes. Brevity can be disappointing, but in this case would have made a tenser, more interesting movie. As it is, it drags a bit in the middle and allows attention to wander a bit.
Still, it’s a well-made movie that is both interesting and fresh, and I recommend it to fans of avant-garde art, mysteries, or strange stories.