Thursday, January 19, 2017

Z for Zachariah

Two men.  One woman.  What could go wrong?
Feeling a little too upbeat about politics, social issues, the War on Terror or life in general?  Have I got a movie for you!

Z for Zachariah starring Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Chris Pine.  Oh, and there’s a dog, but she’s just a dog, and doesn’t really do much.  Z for Zachariah is an adaptation of the posthumously-published Robert O’Brien novel who also wrote Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH—that should give you an idea of the series of down-beats and minor chords you’re about to witness.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world that has suffered some untold suffusion of radiation, the film focusses on remote and beautiful valley region that has somehow escaped the fallout.  Ann (Robbie) is a young girl who has managed to survive the disaster the de-peopled a nearby town, and is now living all alone on her father’s farm/church miles away.  Her one companion is a dog, who accompanies her on hunting trips around the valley.  When she stumbles on John Loomis, and engineer excellently embodied with all the grim gravitas that Ejiofor is capable, she suddenly finds a potential companion—if only he can survive bathing in water brimming with radiation.

It’s not a spoiler to say that John does survive, and is nursed to health by Ann, through both her survivor’s moxy and her faith.  As John grows in strength, the two get to know each other on deeper and sometimes conflicting levels.  It’s clear that John doesn’t have the same faith, if any at all, that Ann finds strength through.  The issues are complicated further (again, not really spoiler) when Caleb (Pine) all hunky roughness and blue-eyes, shows up to complicate matters.

Could my eyes BE and bluer?
This is all excellent post-apoc drama, as meaningful glances, steely stares, and stony silences follow revelations from all of the characters.  Robbie, Ejiofor and Pine are amazing, fully embodying believable characters who inhabit a world that feels large, abandoned, beautiful and deadly.  The shifts from light-hearted to anxious moments don’t beat the audience over the head, and the dialogue remains realistic (or realistic enough) throughout.

I haven’t read the book, so I can’t offer a comparison, or tell fans how true it is to the original.  Also, I'm unclear on who the title is referencing.  From having read Mrs. Frisby though, I have a strong feeling that Z for Zachariah does capture the spirit, if not the word, of O’Brien’s novel.

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