Not many people thrive in almost-constant isolation, but Zoe Lucas has been captivated by the ecology of Sable Island, off the Nova Scotia coast, since her youth. She is now its only full-time inhabitant and spends her days watching the wild horses, seals, and birds who make Sable Island their home on a permanent or migratory basis. She walks filmmaker Jacquelyn Mills through her daily routine and then only pops up in archive footage documenting her processes throughout the years. 

While many excellent nature documentaries capture the extremes of life on earth, nothing seems extreme about Sable Island at first glance: the grass is green and plentiful, and gently rolling hills give way to beaches. However, the far northern latitude and relentless freezing gusts cultivate a stoicism in Lucas and a hardiness in the animals she fondly yet clinically watches. She talks about the swift decomposition process the island facilitates, lifting up a flap of horse skin to show the flesh gone to beetles, as if describing a daily shopping route. 

The camera – capturing Lucas’ world in a timeless 16mm grain – stays still under her narration or sometimes nothing but the wind for minutes at a time, capturing the almost unfathomable stillness of an island only inhabited in observation. Its harsh beauty is arresting, and the horses (majestic and moody) and seals (endearingly raucous and comically proportioned) are fascinating subjects. The sound design captures every crunch and squish along the ground, making Sable Island’s topography tangible. And as Lucas sweeps the beach for washed-up plastics – with balloons the most egregious offender – the impermanence of this untouched world is driven home without any extraneous emphasis. 

An exquisitely composed look at a fragile yet characterful ecosystem and one woman’s home within it, Geographies of Solitude marvels in natural lifecycles and communal survival. 



DIRECTOR: Jacquelyn Mills

SYNOPSIS: Zoe Lucas, the one constant inhabitant of Sable Island, catalogues the isolated island’s seal, bird, and wild horse populations in this poetic documentary.