Sunday, 19 February 2023

Into the Forest (2015)

This is a film more about the strength, power and bonds within a family - as they face uninformed isolation - than the apocalyptic event taking place in the world around them. Around them, but far enough away for them not to be able to discover even what it is, or what's gone wrong.

The power goes off. The car won't start. They live a two-hour walk from even the nearest small town in the woodlands of Canada. They have a generator, but dwindling fuel supplies to keep it going. The internet and radio broadcasts bringing news of what's going on cease, early on in the film - and even then, they didn't seem to know much except for the collapse of society, services and facilities. The days turn into weeks - surely, any day now it will get sorted, they'll find out what it's all about and get back to normal. Weeks turn into months and on it goes.

Our family unit consists of three. Mum seems to have died prior to the film's timeline, so there's dad, Robert, played by Callum Keith Rennie (The Man in the High Castle, Memento), older daughter Eva by Evan Rachel Wood (Whatever Works) and the star of the show Nell, depicted by Elliot (then Ellen) Page (Juno, To Rome with Love). She (now he) really is a terrific actor, cute and pretty, here, and holds the film together beautifully...

...a film which was directed and written by Patricia Rozema (Mouthpiece, Mansfield Park) and based on the novel of the same name by Jean Hegland. A novel about this small family who start from a point of relative wealth and privilege, not wanting for much, lovely house in the woods - an idyllic life, towards something different. As resources start to run out (and quite early on there's a tragedy involving dad) the two girls are left alone to work out how to survive. Fortunately, there's plenty of water as it rains an awful lot in their neck of the woods! But they have to work out how to find food and ensure that they can eat, with some interesting creative solutions and self-reliance on display.

Unfortunately, there are visits from two young men during this timeline. One, and old flame of Nell's with (apparent) word from Boston, where things are allegedly 'back to normal'. It was enough of a temptation for Nell to think about trekking on foot for an estimated eight months, with Eli, played by Max Minghella (The Handmaid's Tale), to get there. The other, a much more sinister and tragic visit with outcomes which strive to keep the girls together and strengthen their bond.

The film is sometimes slow, but purposefully, to engage the audience within the experience - a taster of what it might be like for any of us and a reminder perhaps about looking at how resourceful we would all be, given this scenario (unlikely as we might think it could be). The actors bring out a fine depiction of the frustrations, concern, anxiety and hopelessness for us to admire as well as the hope which may, any minute, be around the corner.

There's some lovely cinematography going on in this wooden wonderland and the set lends itself very nicely to injecting a sense of isolation and eventually paranoia into the viewer. The film seems to have got more than it's fair share of bad press, but I really enjoyed it and would recommend it for a viewing as it's currently included in Amazon Prime Video for those who subscribe.

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