The viewer is plonked straight into this young couple’s Sisyphean nightmare, with the two stars turning in individually memorable performances even if a convincing chemistry is lacking in their relationship. Eisenberg plays to type and is all scowls and bitter resentment as he digs a hole in the front yard to distract himself from his frustrations, while Poots switches between cool dignity and resigned sadness as she eventually falls into line to take up her role as primary caregiver to the ‘creepy little mutant.’
The kid grows at an exponentially fast rate and the clashes and interactions between guardian and child are handled in a gleefully surreal manner. Senan Jennings as the younger version of the child turns in a genuinely unsettling performance as he mimics his parents’ mannerisms and voices, barks like a dog and interminably screams until he is served his morning cereal. The touchstones and references range from Philip K. Dick and Madeleine L’Engle to Inside Number 9 with Vivarium displaying a mischievous sense of humour and instinctual knack of cutting close to the bone when it comes to the absurdly rigid plan that society lays out for humans to maintain the status quo.
Vivarium was seen and reviewed at Cannes Film Festival 2019.