Director Lorcan Finnegan’s Vivarium (2019) is an odd film that was entertaining and thought-provoking – all trademarks for a compelling science fiction film. Gemma (Imogen Poots) is a teacher in a relationship with Tom (Jesse Eisenberg), and the two are looking for a new home. It leads them to Martin’s (Jonathan Aris) office, and he convinces the couple to visit a new home in Yonder, a cookie-cutter housing community. They soon find themselves trapped in a labyrinth of suburbia, responsible for a mysterious new baby that they must raise in order to be released.
Poots and Eisenberg collaborated earlier this year in the Art of Self Defense (2019), and they definitely have a quirky chemistry that works in these challenging situations. Poots has been an actress that sure-fire draws me into seeing a movie since her performance in Green Room (2015). Her name, paired with Eisenberg’s – also a favorite of mine – certainly pulled me into seeing this movie. I really enjoyed their performances as the film progresses into weirder and weirder territory.
Their initial attempts at getting out of the maze of suburban communities are stress-inducing. They begin by just driving around, and Tom pushes his maleness and insists on driving after she keeps getting them lost and driving past house number 9. As the light fades and the montage of driving deepens, the reality of their situation becomes increasingly more hopeless. A cigarette tossed out the window helps show the passage of time and is a compelling visual inserted into the sequencing. Eventually, the car runs out of gas, and their escape seems more hopeless than before. They concede and decide to sleep in their “house” until the morning, where escape attempt number two will commence.
After taking stock of their situation, Tom and Gemmy begin to walk straight through the yards of the infinite row of houses, hopping over fences as they try and escape. Once realizing that escape isn’t an apparent option, the child arrives in a box. The world they find themselves in is undeniably not the one they’ve known. This baby ages much more rapidly, and once a young boy – played by Senan Jennings in an unnervingly creepy performance – is in their home, the movie continues to become weirder.
Vivarium is a movie that worked for me. I found it endlessly intriguing, and surely one that may have layers worth peeling back through multiple viewings. Eisenberg and Poots will hopefully collaborate again in the future, as they mesh well together. Vivarium earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.