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into the Forest - Movie Review


4 stars

Canadian filmmaker Patricia Rozema’s Into the Forest is another of those end-of-the-world, what-now flicks that seem to be all the rage these days. They are a-dime-a-dozen. And with a serious dearth of fresh ideas and unique takes on the genre, most come and go with little notice nowadays. But this one’s different. Now, before you roll your eyes and click away, hear me out.

The story is based on Jean Hegland’s post-apocalypse novel of the same name. It’s about two sisters who, when faced with a continent-wide power blackout, learn to live off the land and support themselves with whatever meager rations were left in their Frank Lloyd Wright-style house when the power shutdown takes place. Adding suspense, we’re never given an absolute explanation as to the cause of the outage, nor exactly how widespread it is. Instead, we receive abbreviated tidbits of second-hand information and rumors at the same time as do sisters, Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) and Nell (Ellen Page), and their father (Callum Rennie).

Now, the fresh take on the premise is that there are no zombies or roving bands of armor-clad ruffians scouring the countryside for fuel, water and cigarettes. The villain here is a world void of electricity to power our always-on mobile devices, computers and electronic stimulation devices. And in today’s world, there’s hardly a more foreboding boogeyman. Just pause for a moment and imagine a world with zero electricity. Now you understand the horror.

Although sisters, Eva and Nell couldn’t be more different. Eva finds solace in modern dance, while Nell is into books and studying for her SATs. Initially, there’s a palpable indifference and even agitation between the two, but the film’s genius is revealed as we watch the sibling bond grow as the fallout of the crisis worsens. Page sets aside her trademarked sarcasm for one of the most nuanced performances she’s ever turned in, while Wood’s brooding complexity plays nicely against the worsening dilemma.

Many viewers who wander in looking for zombies, blood, and axe-wielding bad guys will find themselves a bit put off by the film’s deliberate pace, the plot’s slow unfurling and the lack of mile-a-minute revelations. This isn’t a post-apocalyptic nightmare of the future set in some faraway land. Plain and simple, this is a sister tale. A sisterhood of the rolling blackouts, if you will, that takes place in the very near future and is set in the Canadian Pacific Northwest. And if character-driven drama pieces aren't your thing, then this one might not be for you.

We’re given a very realistic depiction of how a modern-day power grid shutdown might actually play out… and it ain’t pretty. Well, the film itself is very pretty as Rozema’s creative use of light and dark are extremely effective, as are the brooding tones of Max Richter’s omnipresent score. But the slow disintegration of family and the film’s final outcome certainly paint a very unpleasant picture.

Rozema (she writes and directs) makes a lot of great decisions as her story unfolds. She uses the lush beauty of the dense forest – and the house’s remote location – to mask the dangers hidden within their new life. She avoids many of the over-used genre tropes of most post-apocalyptic thrillers, instead going for the tender moments of human emotion and the bonds of sisterhood rather than ones of great drama. As the blackout persists over a period of 15 months or more, the story depicts a startlingly realistic illustration of how the end of times may actually go down. It will most certainly be revealed that we humans – with our self-indulgences, bombastic egocentricities, and material dependencies – are far more dangerous than anything the crisis itself might entail.

Into the Forest's closing scenes are already sparking heated debates and bold consternation across the internet. But like nearly everything else in the movie, the surprising turn is unforeseen and deliciously understated. The unsettling directions taken by the internet chatter paint a very unflattering picture of humanity and indicate that if our continued existence on this planet ever does come down to co-dependence and working together, we may be in for a big surprise. And that’s kind of the movie’s point.


[tab title="Film Details"]

into the Forest - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for a scene of violence involving rape, language and some sexuality/nudity.
101 mins
: Patricia Rozema
Patricia Rozema
Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella
: Drama | mystery
Hope is power
Memorable Movie Quote: "This is all we have. We have each other."
Official Site: https://www.facebook.com/INTOTHEFORESTMOVIE/?fref=ts
Release Date:
July 29, 2016 (limited)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: In the not too distant future, two young women who live in a remote ancient forest discover the world around them is on the brink of an apocalypse. Informed only by rumor, they fight intruders, disease, loneliness & starvation.


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