Don’t even talk to me about getting a mortgage. In this economy? May as well resign yourself to renting forever and raising your own Chernobyl of a nuclear family from a cupboard under the stairs. Vivarium is a malevolent horror satire that suggests those struggling with millennial anxieties should be careful what they wish for.
Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots star as Tom and Gemma, a couple looking for their first home when they stumble upon Yonder, a unique and disturbing estate agency. Martin (Jonathan Aris) gives such an unhinged sales pitch it’s tempting to write off the film completely when the couple agree to join him at a viewing, but it soon becomes clear Vivarium lives firmly within a fairytale world.
For better and worse, writers Lorcan Finnegan (also directing) and Garret Shanley contain their concept and characters to a tight bubble, leaving out any significant context or backstory. It’s easy enough to buy Yonder as a self-contained house of horrors but some more development of Tom and Gemma would have raised this film to the next level. Eisenberg and Poots still create authentic characters with a lot of depth, but a broader examination of their relationship could have made the stresses it’s subjected to all the more painful.
The script can be a little on-the-nose, but it does offer some hilariously literal metaphors for the hell of parenthood which it would be a shame to spoil. Middle-class suburbia is also in the crosshairs, with Yonder becoming a prison of repetitive architecture and domestic mundanity.
Everyone is on fine form in this unsettling horror that aligns up-and-coming director Lorcan Finnegan with Yorgos Lanthimos’ assaults on domesticity. You may leave wishing for a few more answers and a little more depth, but this is compelling, spirited filmmaking that will delight and crush you.
CAST: Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Aris, Senan Jennings, Eanna Hardwicke
DIRECTOR: Lorcan Finnegan
WRITERS: Garret Shanley (story and screenplay), Lorcan Finnegan (story)
SYNOPSIS: A couple looking for the perfect home find themselves trapped in a mysterious labyrinth-like neighborhood of identical houses.
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