26th Mar2020

‘Vivarium’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots, Danielle Ryan, Molly McCann, Jonathan Aris | Written by Lorcan Finnegan, Garret Shanley | Directed by Lorcan Finnegan


Vivarium is a sci-fi horror film from director Lorcan Finnegan, who also wrote alongside Garret Shanley, who also penned the screenplay. We follow a young couple who are looking for a house, and find themselves buying a home in a development called “Yonder”. This new development is strange, empty and the guy showing them the house is a tad on the peculiar side too. When the guy showing them the house disappears, they attempt to leave Yonder, only to find themselves going around in circles, unable to find a way out.

The concept of the film immediately hooked me when I read about it a few months ago. The film doesn’t mess around either. You’re into the story and the flesh and bones of the idea within a few minutes, and the tone and energy is right on point. This Yonder place feels cold, grey and alien. The cast, mainly consisting of Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg, do a great job in their roles, showing fear, confusion, frustration and out and out anger at the situation they find themselves in. As Gemma and Tom, they are the backbone of the story, with very few other performers appearing in the film’s just-over 90 minute runtime. The dialogue really struck me. It’s weaved so well, and when the characters say things, it strikes a nerve and makes you consider this odd and scary concept yourself. When Gemma (Poots) says “I’ve never heard such silence” as she lays uncomfortably in the bed of this soulless home, it’s powerful.

Gemma and Tom, once they are stuck in Yonder, find themselves looking for a way out, walking the streets, driving around in circles and even hopping fences to attempt to find an end to this neighbourhood, but they always just wind up back at the house they were shows to. Number 9. The addition of a child to their situation only adds to their confusion and bewilderment. He is a baby, but quickly grows into a small, odd boy, played by Senan Jennings, who mimics their voices, screams out of nowhere and acts in the most obscure and angering of ways. Jennings is excellent, and at such a young age puts in a hell of a performance.

Now, I don’t want to go too much more in to where the story goes, but there are some really interesting, messed-up and laugh-out-loud elements added. The minimalistic and entirely weird tone of the film is remarkable, with McGregor’s cinematography really helping to breathe that extra gasp of strangeness into things. The twists and turns that the film takes as it goes along are great. It never slows down or feels tedious or boring, and never fails to make you think and contemplate what Gemma and Tom are experiencing. In a time in the world that we’re experiencing right now, the concept of being stuck in one place has never been more apt, and perhaps that makes this all the more poignant right now, and all the more scary. At parts genuinely creepy, and other times managing to inject some humour into things, Vivarium is something totally unique and like nothing I’ve seen before. A discussion on the mundanity of life, of the cold reality of the suburbs, and of the alien concept, to some, of having a child suddenly enter your life. The film blasts you with metaphors in a manner that David Lynch may have done.

A film about isolation and loneliness, about de-humanisation, post-natal depression and life, it’s humorous yet frightening, and does each thing it attempts with success. The whole thing just works, and as bizarre as it all is, it isn’t so bizarre that you’ll find yourself agitated with it. A slam-dunk of a comic horror sci-fi film that feels like a step right back into The Twilight Zone, it’s a movie with a whole lot to say, in it’s own way, about modern life and all the things that come along with it.

Vivarium is like an unmoving sky of perfectly shaped clouds, an energetic yet solemn experience unlike anything else. Remarkable.

**** 4/5

Vivarium will be available on the following digital platforms: iTunes/Apple TV, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, Google Play, Rakuten, BT, Playstation, Microsoft, Curzon Home Cinema and BFI Player from tomorrow, Friday March 2th.


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