Image from Vivarium (2019)
Vivarium is the mind-bending mystery/science fiction film directed by Lorcan Finnegan, which follows a likable young couple (Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots) looking to buy a starter home. One day, they walk into the 'Yonder' real estate office - a new housing development and choose to go to a showing. At the new property, the estate agent leaves unexpectedly so the couple decides to head home. They try desperately to find a way out but fail to escape the mysterious confines of Yonder, this surreal neighborhood where all of the houses look the same, nobody else seems to live there and there's no tangible exit. Things go from bad to worse when a box arrives containing a newborn baby which reads, "Raise the child and be released". 

A Surreal Escape: Vivarium unnerves the audience with Finnegan’s intricately directing the establishing unnerving shots of Yonder with creepy carbon-copy houses from a birds-eye view, disorientating shots from inside the vehicle, and close-ups of Eisenberg and Poots losing their mental resolve. We're in the ride along with them, literally and figuratively as they try to manage this weird world with a set of human coping mechanisms. This Yonder place transports us to an eerie place of fake perfection, the skies with perfectly rounded clouds that just look like clouds, and perfect weather with none of the pesky elements. The journey of them establishing the nature of the Yonder neighborhood is thoughtfully paced and executed, we don't have any fluff here and that's a delight. Vivarium's claustrophobic atmosphere is enhanced by the work of cinematographer MacGregor, whose use of color made an enormous impact on the overall cinematic experience. MacGregor's use of the highly saturated tones of the exterior of the Yonder neighborhood and cold tones of the interior of their home galvanizes the film's unique aesthetic and screenplay, conquering themes of Being Happy On The Outside and Miserable Underneath It All.

“All we wanted was a home”: Vivarium touts the captivating science-fiction screenplay by Garret Shanley (story by Finnegan and Shanley) which hit all the notes in this engaging, intriguing and emotionally-pulverizing ride. The absurd nature of the story makes similarities to real-world issues even more apparent, such as the inner turmoil felt by new or unwilling parents and how new offspring can interfere with the dynamics of a marriage/relationship. A couple wants a house, and now they’re supposed to raise this baby for the next 'how many' years, yeah okay...not cool. Vivarium could be marketed as a horror film for the childfree community — a little elbow nudge at how parenthood/suburbia is an inescapable burden from which there is no exit or something like that. Eisenberg and Poots give some of their most memorable performances on screen as two members of a romantic couple going through the motions and struggling to cope emotionally. The image of Poots manically howling at the sun haunts me.

An original, engaging, thoughtful and well-executed science-fiction, equally impressive in terms of aesthetics and emotional depth. Vivarium is a must-watch for sci-fi loving cinephiles.

Watch Vivarium via Amazon or iTunes