There are no hoards of marauding zombies or planet eating black holes, massive solar eruptions or robots involved in Patricia Rozema’s new end-of-the-world drama “Into the Forest.” Instead it’s a dystopian story that focuses attention on the aftermath, and the ties that bind one family together. It’s riveting stuff, survival boiled down to its essence, without the bells and whistles that tend to clutter CGI driven “apocalypse wow” movies.
Adapted from the novel by Jean Hegland this is the story of widower Robert (Callum Keith Rennie) and his daughters Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) are a family who live deep in the Pacific Northwest forest. Miles away from their nearest neighbours, Nell studies for school while Eva rehearses for a dance competition. It’s an isolated, quiet life, made quieter when a massive blackout knocks out their power. As the days turn into weeks it becomes clear the power may never come back. The closest grocery store has run out of food and the hand-cranked radio is suggesting terrorism was responsible for the outage. Violence is in the air, and when tragedy strikes the sisters are forced to become self-sufficient while living off-the-grid.
There’s no big bang in “Into the Forest.” It’s a slow burn that builds in intensity as we get to know the characters. As Nell, Page is studious, responsible and headstrong, while Wood’s Eva is tough, a fighter with a lyrical side. Both are resilient in the face of hardship, but more importantly their sibling dynamic is, well, dynamic. This isn’t a disaster film; it’s a parable about survival in the face of disaster. It’s a study of human nature, willpower and the unbreakable bond that exists between sisters.
The film also contains a subtle but undeniable eco-message. Set against the lush backdrop of British Columbian woodland, “Into the Forest” makes a strong case for the kind of resourcefulness and skill set that seems lost in the age of Apple.
“Into the Forest” is the anti-Michael Bay apocalypse film. It’s a human story, and what it lacks in bombast it makes up for in emotional pyrotechnics.