With everyone now at home, a lot of people are seeking out films and TV shows to watch on streaming services because all the cinemas across the globe are now closed. One of the newest films to be released on streaming platforms is Vivarium, a very strange film, distributed by Vertigo Programming. The film is available on Curzon Home Cinema (which is where I watched it) and iTunes, where you can rent it for £4.99.
The film has a Twilight Zone-like premise, in which a young couple, Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg), are attempting to get themselves a suburban, domesticated family home. They go meet a very odd real estate agent, Martin (Jonathan Aris), who takes the couple to a new development plan of houses, called Yonder.
The homes are all identical, and the neighbourhood looks beautiful and perfect… but a little too perfect. Disaster strikes for the couple when Martin suddenly disappears, and the couple are unable to leave – every-time they drive away from the house, they find themselves back at the same house. Unable to leave, they are soon given a package of a baby, and they discover that they must raise the child, and they will be allowed to leave. However, will this be make or break for the couple as they raise their new “son”.
The film is perfect for everyone right now, because everyone, like our two lead heroes, are stuck in the home. The film has echoes of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, and feels very influenced by the works of Ira Levin, like 1975’s The Stepford Wives. One of the main reasons for this comparison is it’s satirical narrative. The film could be seen as a metaphor for the experience of a young couple raising a child. After being handed their child, they loose all their free will and become miserable and exhausted, beginning turning on each other in the process. I mean, this is very much a Ira Levin-type plot – The Stepford Wives, of course, is about a husband who wishes his wife was a stereotypical robotic housewife, and then she literally becomes a robotic housewife.
The two leads are really terrific, and give very engaging performances. Poots exudes a likable and sympathetic energy, and makes a empathetic lead. Eisenberg is also very good – he is often a lot more interesting when given a character who is not always likeable. Often times, he is given the “lovable nerd” character, that doesn’t really feel lovable or even likable. However, he usually flourishes with a character a bit more annoying and irksome – case and point is his brilliant Oscar-nominated role in 2010’s The Social Network.
Also great is the child character, just called “The Boy”, played by Senan Jennings. In a very science fiction way, The Boy turns into a seven-year old boy after months of the couple raising him. They also must have dubbed his voice in post-production, as he talks in an adult voice, and with multiple voices. The result is supremely chilling and creepy, especially by how The Boy often lets a high-pitched shriek that feels otherworldly.
The visual style is also very original and startling. The way in which all the houses and the neighbourhood streets are identical creates the same level of paranoia and claustrophobia that the couple are feeling. There are so many interesting stylistic flourishes, from the green and turquoise colours used to the creepily perfect clouds up in the clear blue sky.
As great and interesting as the film is, it does sometimes feel like one idea stretched out to enormous length. After the first act, which is very interesting, the film loses a bit of it’s intrigue. Possibly it would of made a better short film, or episode of a television show. That being said, it is supremely thought-provoking and interesting. You will definitely be thinking about it for a while, and this could be perfect for everyone, stuck at home.