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Vivarium (15) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir: Lorcan Finnegan, Ireland/Belgium/Denmark/US/UK 2019, 98 mins

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots, Jonathan Aris, Senana Jennings, Eanna Hardwicke

Review by Carlie Newman

Vivarium is available to stream on all major platforms

What a strange, haunting film this is! It begins in an ordinary manner with a young couple, Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) and Gemma (Imogen Poots) looking for a home to buy.

Tom is a tree surgeon and Gemma is a teacher (we see them at work at the start of the film). When they go into an estate agent’s, they are a little put off by the somewhat strange manner of the salesman Martin ((Jonathan Aris). Deciding that it is worth looking at the property he offers, the couple follow Martin to a new empty estate called ‘Yonder.’

Martin suddenly vanishes and the couple, having looked at the property, decide to leave. They drive round and round the estate but always end up where they started. When they run out of petrol they are forced to stay in the house, which is fully fitted. They again try to leave the next day, this time on foot, but it is a maze they can’t escape from as they always return to their original house. Finding a box of supplies they are puzzled and frightened.

When a box is delivered containing a baby, the couple realise that they are in a nightmare that they can’t escape from. The baby screams and continues to behave in a most unnatural way as he grows and grows very quickly to become seven-years-old (Senan Jennings), a weird alien-type child who mimics what they say and continues screaming to be fed. As the child continues to grow to become an equally terrifying adult (Eanna Hardwicke), the relationship between the couple deteriorates. Trapped in a place that is impossible to escape from, Tom tries to dig a tunnel in the garden while Gemma is forced to take on the role of mother to the boy.

Beautifully acted by all, particularly Poots and Eisenberg, we see two young people – played very realistically – obviously in love to start with, becoming gradually estranged

Although this comes across as a horror film, with the couple being trapped in their environment with a frightening child, it is also a tale of the lengths people have to go onto get on the property ladder. In our present lock-down situation, unfortunately, the film has a lot to say to us at this present time.