Vivarium first look review Cannes Film Festival 2019

Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg are trapped in a Twilight Zone-esque domestic nightmare in Vivarium

Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg star as a couple who get stuck in domestic hell after following a strange estate agent to a housing complex. Modern anxieties and aspirations concerning home ownership, consumerism and attaining the ideal family set-up get ripped apart at the seams in Lorcan Finnegan’s Twilight Zone style sci-fi flick. The film has a synthetic aesthetic with flourishes of Magritte in the perfect blue skies dotted with fluffy clouds and identical green houses lining the empty streets. There’s not a soul in sight until a baby appears in a cardboard box with the ominous instructions to ‘Raise the child and be released.’

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.