Vivarium (2019)
★ / ★★★★

The suburbs is where people go to settle down and die. That’s the metaphor behind “Vivarium,” a twenty-minute short film stretched to a hundred painful minutes which results in annoyance and pointlessness. By the end of it, I wanted to scream into the ears of director Lorcan Finnegan—exactly how one of his characters belts out a shrill scream when it experiences frustration. Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg—who share minimal chemistry—portray a young couple looking to buy a home but find themselves trapped in the labyrinthine housing development called Yonder after the real estate agent, Martin (Jonathan Aris), disappears during the tour. This picture is evidence that a good idea can go nowhere fast when the screenplay fails to dig deep; there is a skeletal story and nothing else. Instead, heavy-handed (and obvious) symbolisms are thrown onto our laps—laziness masquerading as “creativity.” I didn’t buy it and neither should you. Certainly there are creepy moments, like when Gemma and Tom discover an infant in a box that comes with instructions and how houses, streets, and clouds look identical, but these are not enough to keep the material afloat. The question comes down to this: What is it about suburbia that sucks the life out of its inhabitants? The routine? Boredom? Homogeneity? A sheltered existence? There is setup but no punchline. What is the point of telling this particular story and why is it worth telling? Based on the screenplay by Garret Shanley.

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