Thursday, July 28, 2016

Two women in a world without power

We've seen so many post-apocalyptic movies that if the real thing ever arrives, it's likely to feel anti-climactic. Still, audience familiarity with end-of-the-world scenarios hasn't stopped director Patricia Rozema from adapting a 1996 novel by Jean Hegland. In Into the Forest, Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood play sisters living in the northwestern woods with their father (Callum Keith Rennie). Trouble arrives when the family's home is engulfed by the darkness of a power outage. It soon becomes clear that the outage is neither temporary nor isolated. For reasons that never are explained, the outage has afflicted the entire US, maybe the whole world. Eventually Rozema's movie becomes a kind of meditation on living without electrical power, which means no Internet, no recorded music, no lights or phones. After a few weeks, gas is impossible to find. Page's Nell takes a pragmatic approach to survival while Wood's Eva harbors the illusion that she still can pursue her dream of becoming a dancer. Although mostly a two-hander, Rozema makes room for some men including a young man (Max Minghella) who tries to entice Nell into heading east with him, and an unwanted intruder (Michael Edlund) whose presence adds an ominous dimension to the sisters' struggle. You probably can tell from what I've said that Dad doesn't make it much past the first act. Page and Wood play an interesting duet, although Rozema can't always maintain enough tension, and the story too obviously becomes a fable about the power of sisterhood. Still, Into the Forest can't be accused of following the usual eruptive formula; it may be the quietest post-apocalyptic movie ever made.

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