Sometime in the near future, society is devastated by a cataclysmic event, one that causes a massive power outage throughout the country. Living in this society are Nell, Eva, and their father, who prior to the event moved to a house in the middle of a secluded forest. Eva (played by Evan Rachel Wood) is a dancer who has been practicing intensely for an audition with a prestigious dance company; Nell (played by Ellen Page) is a high school honors student dutifully studying for her SATs; their father, Robert (played by Callum Keith Rennie) is a widower who more than likely is channeling his grief into fixing up the house (which is simultaneously ultra modern and starting to fall apart).
Then, of course, things go bad … and go slightly worse when Nell accidentally leaves their SUV’s trunk door open, killing its battery. They aren’t able to get into town for at least a few weeks and by then, everything has gone way downhill. At one point later, when they pull over to the side of the road to help a stranded motorist and said motorist pulls a gun on Robert, he decides they’ll stay up in the house and wait out the power outage. After all, it’s got to come on at some point, right?
I don’t want to go much further into the plot of the film because I don’t want to get too spoiler heavy except to say that it becomes a survival film where things keep happening to the family because … well, because the plot demands it, really.
All right, that’s a pithy comment, because this film is a very good, very intimate apocalypse movie, something that is hard to pull off considering we sometimes expect a lot of “big picture” stuff when it comes to our apocalypse flicks. Wood and Page have a pretty big task because they have to carry the majority of the film; of course, they’re outstanding actors and that’s why I was interested in the movie to begin with. Wood does a great job of showing us a character who is trying her best to hold it together through the routine of constant practice–a literal monotonous practice of the same dance routine set to the ticking of a metronome–while Page’s Nell tries her best to be the resourceful one. They even fight in a way that feels like the way two sisters would fight in this situation.
I think what helps this film tremendously is that it was written and directed by Patricia Rozema, who has an impressive track record of writing character-driven films and television. Moreover, it’s a demonstration of a great woman-centric story that was created and helmed by a woman (as was the novel upon which it is based). She understands these two characters on a fundamental level and you can tell that she worked with Wood and Page to help them reach that same level.
I watched this through my local library on Kanopy, but it can also be rented through Amazon Prime if you want to spend the money (although I’m going to endorse the use of Kanopy here).
Watch or Skip?