Jesse Eisenberg and Imogene Poots star in this smart and deeply unsettling sci-fi thriller courtesy of Irish director Lorcan Finnegan. Written by Finnegan in collaboration with his Without Name screenwriter Garret Shanley, Vivarium presents a hellish vision of life in the suburbs which reads like an extended Twilight Zone episode.
When we first meet school teacher Gemma (Poots) and tree-surgeon Tom (Eisenberg), they are deeply in love and looking to settle down in a home of their own. When a strange real-estate agent (a chilling Jonathan Aris) takes them to Yonder, a mysterious new suburban neighbourhood, Tom and Gemma are intrigued by the endless rows of fully kitted out identical houses, but can’t wait to leave.
Things take a turn for the sinister, when the desperate duo find themselves trapped and unable to leave Yonder no matter how hard they try. Defeated and ready to settled down for the duration, Tom and Gemma slowly fall into a monotonous routine which is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of an unlikely addition to their new household.
Set to send a shiver down the spine of any young couple planning a move from care-free metropolitan bliss to the sleepy suburbs, Vivarium encapsulates all of our deep-seated fears about settling down. Finnegan and Shanley have devised a commendably dense, insightful and genuinely thought-provoking modern sci-fi which is further enhanced by a stunning cinematography courtesy of Spanish Future Sex director MacGregor.
Elevated by its director’s fearlessly ambitious execution, Vivarium relies on its continued and relentless sense of dread to bring us one of the bravest and most original films of the year.
Mixing social satire and clever allegory, Finnegan and Shanley touch upon the finality of life after having children. There is a chilling air of complete and utter despair seeping through its soul-shakingly pessimistic outlook. And while some might find this aversion to settling down a little exaggerated, there’s also plenty of humour in the earlier stages of the film to make the pill go down a little smoother.
Eisenberg and Poots give two heroic performances as a couple slowly sinking into madness. The way Eisenberg navigates Tom’s trajectory from carefree jester to hopeless curmudgeon has to be one of the most poignant aspects of the film. For her part, Poots gives a beautifully understate performance as the more pragmatic of the two. She highlights Gemma’s ability to see the good in everyone and everything very well.
This is a brilliantly engaging, beautifully acted and expertly executed modern sci-fi which has all the markings of an instant classic.
In Absence of a theatrical release, Vivarium is available to stream online from Friday 27th of March