Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

dir-scr Alec Tibaldi
prd Robert Ogden Barnum, Eric Binns
with Ashley Judd, Asher Angel, Sarah Pidgeon, Katie Douglas, Edward Balaban, Kyla Brown, Eddie Wollrabe, Harley Reed, Christine Uhebe, Paula Patino, Sophia Baaden, Michelle Damis
release US 10.May.24
24/US Vertical 1h26

judd pidgeon douglas

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Using a hushed tone and isolated setting, this post-apocalyptic dramatic thriller builds tension slowly, with strong echoes of A Quiet Place in the way it pits a fragile family against menacing outsiders. Writer-director Alex Tibaldi takes a rather over-serious approach that occasionally begins to feel a bit corny. But the story is involving and thought-provoking in some surprisingly resonant ways, because it's easy to identify with the characters.
A decade after a virus caused the collapse of civilisation, Lee has built a safe life in her Pacific Northwest woodland retreat Lazareth for her 20-something nieces Maeve (Pidgeon) and Imogen (Douglas). Then Maeve discovers the injured Owen (Angel) hiding in the forest, but it takes some convincing for Lee to allow him inside the house to get help. When a gang of interlopers led by Morian (Balaban) threaten their peaceful existence, Lee struggles with even more difficult decisions. And Maeve opts to take matters into her own hands, shocked by the truth she discovers.
Curious about the world outside, Maeve longs to go into town for supplies with Lee, who is determined to protect the sisters at any cost, a mama bear who should definitely not be poked. So of course the sisters are endlessly curious about this often shirtless young man they are tending to, and they become jealous about his attention. The film cleverly creates a claustrophobic sense of life in this idyll, while carefully building intrigue about the threats they face.

The always fully invested Judd is imperious and almost absurdly pious in enforcing her strict rules and paranoid ideas, which are infused with religious zeal about their precious home. Her most frightening glares are aimed at Owen, whom Angel plays as a nice guy who almost inadvertently charms Pidgeon's determined Maeve and Douglas' more warm-hearted, lustier Imogen. There isn't much subtlety in the interaction between these four people as they prepare to take a stand when the invaders inevitable return.

While the wistfully sober approach is a bit much, lacking in realistic earthiness, there are underlying ideas that catch the imagination. Most notable is the exploration of humanity's arrogance, thinking we can control nature, when nature will actually reveal who we are. This works on multiple levels in the narrative. And there's also the way Lee snarls that at the end of the day we are all the result of our choices, and that we are only free if we can live without fear.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 8.May.24

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© 2024 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall