Thursday, 8 December 2016

Z for Zachariah (2015)

An unspecified but radiation-related apocalypse has all but destroyed humanity.  A young woman named Ann lives alone in her home valley, which is somehow protected from the fallout.  Her entire family used to be there, but her parents left to look for other survivors, and her brother to look for their parents.

Ann has all but given up on the hope of seeing another human being when John Loomis arrives.  He's a scientist, protected by an experimental suit, though an accident means he is suffering from radiation sickness nonetheless.

Ann nurses John back to health, and in the nature of such situations, at least in media, the two begin to move toward a romantic and sexual relationship.  John at least seems to be thinking in terms of kids, which suggests that whatever sort of scientist he was, he wasn't a geneticist.

The prospective fly in the ointment of this idyll comes in the form of Caleb, another survivor.  He's young, handsome, and socially and culturally much more like the rural, religious Ann than John is.

So, I went back and forth between 'qualified recommendation' and 'not recommended' on this film.

On the one hand, its "two men are rivals for the last woman on earth" plot is not exactly fresh or original.  And it is quite slow paced.  And the symbolism that one of the two is a man of science while the other is a man of faith is rather heavy-handed and obvious.

On the other hand, it has some lovely cinematography and all three members of the cast deliver good performances.  So I was torn, at least until I read a synopsis of the novel on which it is based.

The book of Z for Zachariah, you see, makes Ann its main character, and introduces only one man into her life.  A scientist named Loomis who rapidly becomes domineering and demanding.  Every time Ann tries to compromise and share the valley as separate individuals, he tries to browbeat and control her.  Ultimately, her only option for safety is to leave.

So in other words the writers of the film took a female-led story with obvious themes about abusive and controlling relationships ... and made it all about the men.  Even though they had to add a man to the story to do it.  Sigh.

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