‘Vivarium‘ is a psychological thriller directed by Lorcan Finnegan. It is based on a story by Shanley and Lorcan Finnegan and made its premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, later being released in 2020 via Vertigo Releasing.
After observing a cuckoo taking over the nest of a finch, teacher Gemma (Imogen Poots) and her handyman husband Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) meet with the mysterious and weird real estate agent Martin (Jonathan Aris) who tells them about the new suburban neighborhood Yonder. They are hesitant at first but agree to go. They find all of the houses look identical and after seeing House Nine, Martin vanishes. Following that, every escape attempt leads the couple right back to the ninth house. Unable to escape the maze, the two are provided with clothes, food, and later with a child whom they are told if they raise him, they will be released. However, as the child grows at an accelerated rate, his odd behavior disturbs them and they both begin to crack under the pressure.
Right off the bat, I want to praise Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots. They were spectacular and their acting was the highpoint for most of the movie. You could feel the emotions, the frustrations, and the desire to escape their frightening circumstances. Not only that but their on-screen chemistry helped propel the plot.
As for the story, it did have some genuinely terrifying and shocking moments. The story moves about at a normal pace and never lags or feels rushed. I do wish that they would have given us a way to feel the time pass. It goes from day one to day two, suddenly its day ninety-eight, and then there’s another time jump. Since it just kind of happened, I did not feel the loss of time that these two folks are suffering.
The themes have been described as being inspired by the fear that Millennials or Gen Z feel about growing up, moving to the suburbs, getting a menial job, and raising a family. If that is true, which is possible considering the title, it possesses a complete lack of understanding of families living in suburbia. It comes off more as how a Hollywood screenwriter would think a normal family would live, but I am duty-bound to report it is not this scary thing. At times, families of all kinds feel fears and desires, but not in the way that the movie allegedly represents.
If you ignore the themes, you have sort of movie that definitely has a timely feel considering it came out during a pandemic lockdown. It has its moments, but I will say that I wanted a bit more from the climax.
Bottom line, Vivarium does have some frightening moments and the powerhouse performances by its stars bring it to a very dramatic conclusion.
PARENTAL CONCERN: Strong foul language, Violence, Sexual content
FAVORITE QUOTE: I’m not your mother.
Check out the trailer below:
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