With three hot actors, Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Chris Pine playing the only characters in the film, it’s no wonder it was garnering such buzz at this year’s Sundance Festival. But is this post-apocalyptic character suspense-drama the living end? Watch:
Here is the written transcript:
British screenwriter Nissar Modi adapted Z FOR ZACHARIAH from the original Edgar winning novel started by Robert C. O’brien but finished by his wife and daughter after his sudden death. It has been a passion project he worked 10 years to see released, as directed by Craig Zobel of 2014’s COMPLIANCE.
As far as Ann (Margot Robbie) knows, she is the only one left alive in her inexplicably sheltered valley after an event occurs leaving the world lethally radioactive. She and her dog eke out an existence in the lush, verdant landscape that houses her family farm. She rescues John Loomis, an engineer of color (Chiwetel Ejiofor) from death by radiation when he bathes in a contaminated lake. They bond, until another man, Caleb (Chris Pine) blonde and blue-eyed, mysteriously shows up. The two men have secrets. And they both want Ann.
There’s an intensity and depth to the interactions between these three, as well as a calmness and beauty to their environment that makes it seem like Eden, albeit a twisted one where all former relationships haunt with the constant pain of loss. Screenwriter Modi focuses on the question of morality, chosen or prescribed, and on how humanity carries on or devolves depending on whose shoulders are asked to hold that burden. These highly marketable stars likely chose this film because the simplicity of the script gives them room to build their own inner lives. Not a look or word is spoken without meaning.
There are films Z FOR ZACHARIAH echoes. Most notable are 1951’s Five and 1959’s THE WORLD, THE FLESH, AND THE DEVIL, both of which shocked with either bombed corpses or endlessly empty urban streets, and both of which featured a triangle of sorts with survivors of one girl and both a black and white male. In Z FOR ZACHARIAH, we never see the destruction we know exists beyond the small environment inhabited by the characters. It only looms like a ghost. The silently safe and supportive valley in which Ann remains captive plays almost like a fourth character.
Another aspect of the film that adds immeasurably is the score by Heather McIntosh who also scored Zobel’s COMPLIANCE. Moody, intense, and emotional, it juxtaposes Ann’s loneliness and isolation against the bucolic setting of her valley perfectly. It’s been playing behind my review, and is available for purchase from the Varese Sarabande label.
I highly recommend Z FOR ZACHARIAH for its authenticity in the emotional portrayals and its acumen at representing the fragility of human interaction. Beautifully acted and shot, it’s a chamber drama that vividly captures desperation and loneliness.
ps.. Sorry, movie poster designers of design house Midnight Oil. The Z FOR ZACHARIAH poster is the worst I’ve seen in a good while…The composition is weak and the color palette is lazy. I will say I liked your HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 images.