I don’t trust him!
In my recent look at the films that I am looking forward to in 2015 I chose this post apocalyptic film starring three of the best young talents in Hollywood today. Margot Robbie in particular has come out of seemingly nowhere in recent years to become one of Hollywood’s hottest properties, and is starring in hit after hit.
I came across the unexpected opportunity to watch Z for Zachariah on Sunday afternoon and took the opportunity as soon as I had the chance, so I am genuinely hoping that it lives up to my hopes.
Some of you may be puzzled as to why I am reviewing a film which will probably be pretty mainstream, it’s because I live in the UK and there hasn’t been a single trailer or TV spot released for this film, and at the time of writing it doesn’t even have a release date. Everyone once in a while I do review films released at the cinemas if I feel that they won’t be well known, and despite the cast I just get that feeling with Z for Zachariah.
Ann (Robbie) lives in the middle of a farm several years after an event that killed off the vast majority of human life. Her farm is in the middle of a valley that was somehow left exempt from whatever wiped out life, and Ann herself is afraid to go out of the valley after her family left, never to return. One day, whilst hunting, she stumbles across a man (Ejiofor) in a radiation suit and follows him as he bathes in a local pool. Ann quickly tries to grab his attention as the waterfall that sources the pool comes from outside the valley and isn’t safe.
The man, who reveals his name to be Loomis, spends the next several days being cared for by Ann as he becomes violently ill. She does eventually nurse him back to health and the two develop a friendship. Whilst exploring the house, Loomis finds a generator and realises that the water from the pool can be used to give the house electricity, although Ann declines the opportunity as it would mean tearing down her father’s chapel.
After the pair decide that they won’t enter a romantic relationship, a man called Caleb (Pine) wanders onto the farm and claims to be from a nearby town called Aston, a town that neither Loomis or Ann have heard of before. Ann eventually relents and agrees to tear down the chapel, and she and Caleb develop start a romantic relationship. Loomis becomes jealous of the two and starts to use any opportunity he can to wedge them apart, but will the perfect opportunity to take Caleb out of the picture be taken?
Worth the wait?
In many ways yes, the film isn’t amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but they get a lot of what they attempt right.
I’m going to start off by something that always disappoints me in films like this. In a lot of post apocalyptic films there are a lot of stereotypes, such as characters trusting no-one but themselves, the characters having a radio with no-one to talk to and all vehicles well beyond the state of working, but the one that always pisses me off is that films like this are introduced in a way where you think they’re the only ones alive, but it turns out that there are hundreds, if not thousands of survivors that are relatively near by.
One such example being the Will Smith film “I Am Legend”. The film is presented in a way where Will Smith is the only man left alive, but they cop out of this and start introducing a lot of new characters by the end, and it feels wasted and it would have been more poetic to have the character finish as the only one alive. In many cases it feels like a deus-ex machina because without the new characters being introduced in “I Am Legend”, the film wouldn’t have been able to finish with a seemingly natural conclusion.
“Z for Zachariah” is not like that at all. You go into it being shown that there are only three characters, and there genuinely are only three characters in the entire run time of just over 90 minutes. There are no other characters introduced at any point, not even in any flashbacks (of which there are none, which is another stereotype), and this is definitely refreshing in so many ways. The film presents itself as only having three characters and it sticks at that. It doesn’t try and get fancy, it just does what it says on the tin.
So based on that, I might as well talk about the performances of both actors and Robbie in turn as it won’t need going into at length.
I like Margot Robbie, I think she is an excellent actress and has a natural charisma, however, in both of her previous mainstream roles (The Wolf of Wall Street and Focus), she has been cast in roles where using her sexuality is a prominent characteristic, especially in the former of those two films, but in “Z for Zachariah” there is nothing sexualised about her character whatsoever (I’m not even entirely convinced that she is wearing any make up during the film) and allows Robbie more freedom to just act. Her character doesn’t dress in a feminine way, expect for the odd scene here and there where she is in a dress, and she gets to betray this independent, if still somewhat vulnerable character.
Pine, despite having the shortest screentime of the three, still imposes his mark on the film very well and you can tell that he has experience in the genre (the film Carriers, which I still review one day) via the use of mannerisms and body language use. Caleb is an interesting character as you’re never entirely sure of exactly what his true intentions are, and Pine plays on that so well. Without going into it so much that it gives you a spoiler, it’s almost perfect that the character’s fate is left very open.
Despite the more than adequate performances of Robbie and Pine, it is Ejiofor that arguably steals the show and has the most varied character. The character changes more than any of the others and therefore Ejiofor gets the most to work with, and he does well in showing each side of Ejiofor, ranging from his happiness and flirtations with Ann, right to when he almost hits for whilst drunk and the way that he becomes exceedingly jealous when he realises that he has lost his chance with Ann. The internal conflict in the final scene he shares with Caleb is portrayed beautifully.
Away from the characters, the filmmakers got the look and feel of the film spot on. The feeling of isolation and loneliness if felt throughout the film, especially when Ann is walking around the town and even from the absolute basics, you can tell that she’s been on her own for a long time, such as the irony of a sign on the side of a repair shop being broken. The cinematography is outstanding and as good as the acting in a film of this nature is, I would argue that the look is far more important and I can’t praise it enough.
The soundtrack is haunting and adds to that almost hopeless feel that inevitably comes from post-apocalyptic films, right from the haunting ambient tones to the haunting melody that Ann plays over and over again on the church organ.
The strange thing is that I didn’t feel particularly entertained by the film, but looking back at it I can’t really point out a single negative, the movie just works
As I mention above, I wasn’t overwhelming entertained by Z for Zachariah, but it is an astonishingly well made and well acted film. I can’t put a finger on a single thing that I didn’t like and yet I feel no urge to ever watch it again, but aside from that is it one of the better films that I have seen for a while.
Pine, Robbie and Ejiofor all put in excellent performances and all successful show why they are all Hollywood A-listers at this moment in time. Each brings their own little twists to their characters and Robbie in particular comes out of the stereotype set by her characters in previous films, showing her flexibility and chameleonic availability.
I have no idea if this will actually get released in UK cinemas, but if it does then I would recommend giving it a chance. It’s length is just long enough to feel like your time and money is well invested, without getting to a length that feels ridiculously long.