Vivarium, 2019 – ★★★½ – podcast film review

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Vivarium
film walkthrough and summary

A young couple with such promise! That’s what Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots represent. The search for a house is not clearly stated, in fact it looks like they are just killing time on a Sunday, going out and looking at them. Gemma and Tom don’t know the terror that awaits them when they drive out to the identical suburban homes with the salesperson “Martin” (exceptionally creepy dude that resembles an actor on a Progressive Insurance commercial). In fact, he seems like a robot. At this point, they are shown house #9 and left alone inside the blank home. Gemma and Tom try to drive home but every street looks exactly the same and leads them back to the mystic model #9.

The Director is Lorcan Finnegan (Without Name). Since this is his second film, I don’t have a “type” to compare it to. I do recall “Without Name” being slow and odd and maybe allegorical? That would be very similar to what’s going on in “Vivarium.” I took the title to suggest “A look at life.” Co-writer is Garret Shanley who also co-wrote “Without Name.” The Stars are: Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots, Danielle Ryan, and Molly McCann. I was so impressed with Imogen Poots in this. Her acting talent and onscreen presence belies her youth. (She plays a young Valerie in “V for Vendetta.”)

After feeling crushed and claustrophobic, Tom decides to set #9 on fire. Gemma is shocked he has done this but goes along with it since it seems there is literally no way out. The houses stretch out into infinity. The look of the houses resembles what I used to see in 90’s flight simulator games you could download for free. The graphics are simple. During the fire, they decide to follow the very artificial looking sun. It eventually leads them right back to #9 and they become almost surrendered to the house. They find a box with food and necessities in front of the house. They fall asleep in what looks like a death, but it’s not. They find a box with a newborn baby in it that says “Raise the child and be released.” Could this be a statement about Generation X or Y? Perhaps as we are forced into working to pay off a tract home we are fed the lie that if we have children, we will somehow escape the malaise. Could this be our middle class suburban existence being poked fun at? I’ll admit the film gives very few concrete clues and instead leaves much open to interpretation, which normally I like. Maybe it would have helped me if there were more clues as to what the writers meant. Incidentally, the director is also a co-writer of the story.

Months pass and the infant grows to the size of a seven year old boy. He imitates his parents’ voices which to me seemed like the “bait and switch” realization that raising the kid was just a way to pass on traits. The couple is still young but they start to seem like depressed older parents who cannot escape. They seem resigned to the fact that they may never escape. Tom tries to be violent with the “son” and refuses to call him a “boy.” The mother continually says to the boy when he calls her “Mom,” “I am not your mother!” in a very hateful way. Notwithstanding, she seems much kinder than Tow toward the child, even though the child appears to be killing both slowly. Tom finds out the astro turf grass has a strange clay material under it. He is driven to dig down into the yard and discover what is there. The digging each day becomes like a job for him. He gets up, eats breakfast and then starts his occupation of digging. It seems to give him purpose. Could this be the yard work etc we do in Suburbia? No one cares, why are we (esp as dad’s) so obsessed with the look of our lawn and garden?

Once the boy disappears and returns with a book. It has strange and threatening images of 2 adults and a child in witch-like spells. She demands he tell her who gave her the book. He says he’s not supposed to tell. After this the boy’s neck pulsates in a frightening, monstrous way showing possibly what the giver of the book looked like. Gemma now realizes the boy can’t imagine anything. He seems ever more like a robot or clone of sorts.

Toward the end, the boy grows into a man and Gemma tries to kill him. He disappears under the subterranean veneer of the neighborhood. He actually peels up the ground exposing other families suffering as they are. Gemma screams defiantly and dies. The boy buries her in the hole Tom has dug. This is all a frightening scene where Gemma is zipped up in a body bag while talking. The boy then becomes a real estate agent, replacing Martin who appears old and broken down. The boy greets a new couple walking into the office.

The end! Now, you can watch me on Youtube!!!

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