By James Davidson
“Vivarium” is a Science-Fiction, Thriller, starring Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg that debuted in March of this year on the Amazon Prime streaming service. The movie is available to stream for free for Amazon Prime members. A young couple, Tom, (Eisenberg) and Gemma, (Poots) are looking for the perfect starter home. They follow a strange real estate agent to look at a house in a new subdivision. After looking at the strangely perfect, yet unsettling house, the couple find themselves trapped in a creepy labyrinthine, empty, suburban neighborhood that they cannot escape. A strange package mysteriously appears on the doorstep containing a baby boy. The cryptic message accompanying the boy, “raise the child to be released”. The couple begin to “raise” the strange boy who grows at an unsettlingly rapid pace. The boy also is strangely observant and demanding of the couples attention. The young couple quickly descend into their own versions of madness as they try to escape this strange neighborhood and return to their home.
This movie caught my attention as I was scrolling through the streaming options because of my love of creepy science-fiction and the trailer made the film look like it was going to be an exciting, thought provoking movie. I was also interested to see the usual comedic actor, Jesse Eisenberg, in a seemingly serious role. I thought that this was a very interesting, original premise for a movie and was interested to see how it was executed. I wasn’t entirely disappointed, but I do think it could have been a little better.
The plot was very complex and interesting. There was a lot of mystery and had me trying to figure out what was going to happen, as well as what was happening at the time. This is definitely a thought provoking film and you have to pay attention to even the most seemingly insignificant details. There were a few questionable decisions made by the characters that had me yelling at the screen. Such as the decision for the young couple to follow a very strangely acting real estate agent, who is obviously hiding something into a strange subdivision that is also obviously hiding something and very creepy. However, I was able to forgive some of these decisions for the sake of moving the story along.
I did have a few issues with the plot though. There are a lot of slow parts in the story that made it difficult at times to pay attention. There is a lot of dialogue that is very dry, but pertinent to plot that slows the plot down.
I was also disappointed in the ending of the film. I’m ok with movies that don’t spell everything out for me and let me draw my own conclusions and theories for the story. At the end of this movie however, there were a lot of unanswered questions, and I felt as though I was left with more questions than I had at the beginning of the movie. I admit after the movie was over, I looked up interviews with the director for answers. After looking up the interviews, the ending and the story made a lot more sense, but I don’t think that I should have to do extra research to find the meaning of a movie. Maybe a smarter person than I could figure it out without extra digging, but I had to do a little research. I still very much enjoyed the movie though, and the uncertainty didn’t necessarily ruin the movie, but I felt like it was a bit too vague for my taste.
The acting was exceptional and really complemented the plot very well. Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots had great chemistry and did a good job projecting the uneasiness that anyone would feel in this situation. They worked well together and also did a great job at showing how different people deal with situations differently.
I was also impressed with the director and the way that he was able to give the entire film a creepy, uneasy quality. Everything about the house, the boy, and the neighborhood is perfect, too perfect. It really unnerved me the way that everything was perfect, but perfect in a way that someone who is unfamiliar with the way people actually live would think it should be. It felt like someone who had only seen movies or pictures of neighborhoods and houses created this creepy suburban hell.
This movie is rated R for language and some sexuality/nudity. There is quite a bit of very harsh language in the film and a few sex scenes with partial nudity that would make this inappropriate for families with children to watch. However it is a great movie to watch as a couple, especially if you are a fan of thrillers or sci-fi.
“Vivarium” is a smart, thrilling, creepy movie that will keep you guessing until the very end, and then some. It can be slow in parts, but is engrossing and has some great acting. It might not be for everyone, it keeps you guessing a bit too much in my opinion, but is still an enjoyable sci-fi flick and is worth a watch. I will probably watch this movie again, just to see if there are any clues that I missed the first time around. It earns 3 out of 5 stars.