Lorcan Finnegan (director)
1h 37mins (length)
26 March 2020 (released)
06 April 2020
With people all over the world now spending time in self-isolation due to the coronavirus, film releases have been disrupted, including Vivarium, which is to be released on streaming platforms on 27 March.
Although it’s disappointing that director Lorcan Finnegan’s film will not be seen in cinemas, in some way it is perfect for the age of the coronavirus lockdown. A bizarre, comic, psychological horror, the film follows young couple Gemma and Tom (Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg), a primary school teacher and handyman, who aim to get on the housing ladder.
Aware that an extravagant, or even modest, new home is probably out of their price range, they are drawn to an estate agent (Jonathan Aris), who looks like a nightmarish Playmobil man, promoting an eerie new housing development named Yonder. After taking the couple out to an identikit estate for a viewing and offering them tasteless food and Champagne, he disappears, leaving Gemma and Tom, who have absolutely no interest in settling in this hellish depiction of suburbia, on their own in the house.
They attempt to drive home and cut their losses - but after hours circling turquoise houses and looking up at an unnervingly perfect blue sky, it becomes clear that something is not right. Trapped, out of petrol, yet back at the house where they started, they are handed a baby they are told they must care for in order to be able to leave. Handed this unwanted new arrival, they settle into a soul-sapping routine in a new home they do not want but cannot depart.
The satire is not exactly subtle - any young adult worried about their future, or slightly older ones burdened with responsibilities and expectations that gnaw away at their sense of self would recognise its themes. However, it’s beautifully pitched in such a surreal and bleak style by Finnegan and screenwriter Garret Shanley that it feels original and leaves you on edge. That, and its bleak and bizarre twists and turns around their ‘child’, who grows into a boy with the menace of Damien from The Omen and the charm of a particularly unbending tax official, gives the film its sense of horror and dread.
Poots and Eisenberg also play their roles with understatement but aplomb, perfectly capturing the feelings of a couple who want to explode out of the monotony they’ve fallen into but find it more than impossible.
All in all, if you’re feeling trapped inside this spring when you’d rather be at the cinema, Vivarium is a fascinating if unnerving watch that reminds you that things could always be worse.