Home ContentMovie Review: Vivarium

Movie Review: Vivarium

Published : July 23, 2020

Movie Review: Vivarium
Reviewed by P.A. Sinclair.

Vivarium has been called a "weird little art-house movie", but it is more than that. From the opening scenes Vivarium's superb execution of setting, plot and theme disturbs you until the final credits. It's an unpleasant yet intriguing journey- a couple is trapped, given a baby and will only be freed after they have raised it. The couple despise the child, he calls the boy a “creepy little mutant" and so the story unfolds.

Imagine Stephen King and Lars von Tier get Steven Spielberg to direct Lord of the Flies but with a more deeply disturbing, and grippingly concerning order – the complete opposite of random – our existence laid bare, but that depends on your filter, are you black, Jewish, abused, privileged etcetera, according to Jesse Eisenberg who plays Tom. 

The opening scene of Vivarium reminds me of Finding Nemo when a barracuda eats Nemo’s entire family but for his father. I understand again how traumatizing this scene is, even with an adult filter. In the opening credits of Vivarium, we see a similar brutal nature scene as a bird egg and two pink fleshy baby birds are thrown out of their nest so a stronger bird can take their shelter and food. Nature has its despicable side and Vivarium shows the human version.

Tom (Jesse Eisenberg), and Gemma (Imogen Poots), are led into a future they have not chosen and cannot escape. Irish director, Lorcan Finnegan’s skill is to guide us effortlessly into his stories, as if holding our hand,  but then forces us to watch closely his exploration of grief and identity, Finnegan’s obsession. The tightness of the visual is like a plastic bag sealed over your head. Claustraphobics might really struggle with this but Finnegan keeps you there, forcing you to watch, exaggerating the intensity of this feeling of suffocation. 

Excellent acting by Eisenberg and Poots, the second project they have worked on together.

Poots said Finnegan directed the characters to be completely natural so that the absurdity and surreal nature of the film could be highlighted. She says the film is in a realm of its own and is genreless. Eisenberg interprets Vivarium as a fever dream of the anxieties we have of making commitments amidst our aspirational suburban culture.

Finnegan portrays the psychological dread of what some calll a sinister portrait of marriage brilliantly as a very-bad-dream we become part of, uncomfortably experiencing the suffocation, frustration, anger, hate but ultimately the love between Tom and Gemma. Tom's digging scenes are particularly disturbing and revealing.

Strong performances from Jonathan Aris, Senan Jennings and Eanna Hardwicke who portray the controlling forces behind the film. Eanna Hardwicke’s final scene distinctly says, “birth, death, repeat” and everything that happens in between is life. Finnegan style.



Genre (film): Science Fiction

Release date: 16 April 2020

Running time: 98 minutes

Language: English
Subtitles: None

Production company: Fantastic Films

Producers: Brendan McCarthy, John McDonnell

Screenplay: Garret Shanley, story by Lorcan Finnegan, Garret Shanley

Production design: Philip Murphy

Editing: Tony Cranstoun

Cinematography: Macgregor

Music: Kristian Eidnes Andersen

Main cast: Imogen Poots (The Art of Self-Defense), Jesse Eisenberg (Social Networking; Zombieland), Jonathan Aris, Senan Jennings, Eanna Hardwicke

Courtesy: Umbrella Films/Vimeo; Flourish Magazine 2020.

Ambe Inc.™ Cult Status. Reviews. Copyright. 2/5/2020. phoebesier@outlook.com 

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