Small Scale Gives Way To Big Themes;
And Has Much To Say.
Netflix has really been gathering steam with their original films throughout the past year, so this was a no-brainer for me, especially with the post-apocalyptic sci-fi slant that I’m such a sucker for. This is a quiet, heavily thematic piece that focuses exclusively on two characters in one location, giving a very intimate feeling to a genre usually reserved for the grand and epic.
Anthony Mackie and Margaret Qualley bring all of the necessary humanity to a story that is largely devoid of it, as the change in Earth’s atmosphere has forced the overwhelming majority of people to die or relocate to a colony on Io. Qualley plays Sam, daughter of a biologist (played by Danny Huston in a very small role) trying to speed up humanity’s ability to adapt to the new environment. She echoes his belief in Earth as a viable home, despite everyone else leaving. Micah (Mackie), arriving one day via homemade hot air balloon, has tracked the source of Sam’s father’s transmissions, and wants to see him before he makes the decision to board the final Exodus launch off Earth. Where it goes from there is surprisingly subtle and understated, as it becomes the kind of film you don’t expect, given the typical constraints of the genre.
At its heart, this is a film about relationships. Some of those relationships are between people right next to each other, people millions of miles away, the living and the dead, and ultimately, between humans and the planet itself. Relationships can become toxic, and the latter is a prime example. When faced with a toxic relationship, the choice is to cut and run or stay and try to mend. In this case, humanity has elected the latter (aided by so much death and suffering), yet Sam represents the hopeful optimism that the best of us possess. Fueled by her father’s beliefs running through her (and helped along by a few discoveries she has made in his absence), she represents the shining beacon of hope that we would like to believe will be present in the face of societal collapse. But viewed through a different lens, she is hopelessly naive, and lucky to live in one of the few pockets on Earth where the air is still (mostly) breathable. How you feel about the film overall may be influenced by how you feel about these types of scenarios and how you think you may react.
There are some very well-composited shots on display, especially Micah’s arrival and their trip to the museum late in the film. Much of the latter two thirds exist in close ups and two shots, but even those are lit to enhance the intimate nature of the theme. Without going into any detail, the ambiguous ending may spark some debate if this picks of some traction, and I think the debate is ripe on both sides of that fence. This is a strong little film with a short runtime and an easy recommendation for me.