Beware the evils of suburbia. Vivarium turns the idyllic dream of homeownership into an existential nightmare. Where the joy of having a child becomes an instrument of torture and oppression. Irish director Lorcan Finnegan loads his psychological thriller with metaphors. His approach is initially intriguing. The film then drags considerably to a humdrum climax. Vivarium is a filler episode of Black Mirror pound into a feature film.
Gemma (Imogen Poots) is a kindhearted schoolteacher. Her boyfriend, Tom (Jesse Eisenberg), is an equally good-natured gardener. The young couple decide to purchase a home together. They are convince by Martin (Jonathan Aris). A truly bizarre real estate agent, to visit an exciting new development called Yonder. Gemma and Tom follow Martin to a cookie-cutter neighborhood of virid colonial homes, artificial grass, and picket fences.
When Martin disappears during his presentation of house nine. Gemma and Tom are eager to leave. They soon learn that escaping Yonder is impossible. No matter where they turn or how far they drive, nine is their eventual destination. Cardboard boxes of food appear at their doorstep. Followed by an even more stunning surprise, a baby boy.
Everything about Yonder is mundane. Their food is tasteless. The clouds are mirror images of each other. The story progresses insidiously when the boy (Eanna Hardwicke) grows at an alarming rate. He shrieks for food and attention. He mimics and observes their every move. Gemma and Tom are terrify of the creature. When Tom becomes violent towards the boy. Gemma instinctively protects “it.”. Her efforts to uncover their captors and the boy’s mystery takes a dark turn.
Vivarium is an apt title for the film. The couple are cage animals under observation. Forced to foster a child with no love or compassion. Lorcan Finnegan (Without Name) opens the film with a deadly scene from nature. Gemma explains to a student that nature can be cruel. But the end result is neither heartless or unfair, it is just the way of the world. Being trapped in Yonder attempts to frame this parallel through horror and sci-fi elements. Finnegan’s view of suburban life is clearly understood. My interest in the story and their predicament waned. His premise simply runs thin.
So a major issue is the behavior of the couple towards the boy. Vivarium doesn’t give humanity enough credit or a backbone. It is clearly alien and a threat. That is obvious to the protagonists and audience. Gemma and Tom are too easily cowed. They are not mindless lab rats, or purely instinctual. The situation could not endlessly be dictated by fear of their unseen malefactors. A point of reprisal towards the boy would eventually have been reached by both characters. So you get the warden’s attention by threatening the guards.
Tom and Gemma (Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots) are looking for the perfect home. When a strange real-estate agent takes them to Yonder, a mysterious suburban neighborhood of identical houses, Tom and Gemma can’t leave quick enough. But when they try to exit the labyrinth-like housing development. Each road takes them back to where they started. Soon, they realize their search for a dream home has plunged them into a terrifying nightmare, in this taut thriller filled with white-knuckle suspense.
Rating: R (for language and some sexuality/nudity)
Genre: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By: Lorcan Finnegan
Written By: Garret Shanley
In Theaters: Mar 27, 2020 Limited
On Disc/Streaming: Mar 27, 2020
Runtime: 97 minutes
Studio: Saban Films