Vivarium comes from the minds of director Lorcan Finnegan and writer Garret Shanley. It has been developed from their previous 2012 short film Foxes. Vivarium almost immediately evokes memories of classic anthology shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Inside No. 9 and Night Gallery as we witness a young couple dreaming of buying their first home. Like Tom Hank’s decades earlier, we know this is going to go wrong for them!
As the film opens we pay witness to a baby cuckoo invading the nest of an unsuspecting new mother. Turfing out the birds chicks to ensure their own survival. This parasitic life-cycle of Cuckoos presents the audience with a symbolic foreshadowing that becomes clearer as the plot unravels.
As mentioned the film follows Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) and Gemma (Imogen Poots) as they strive to buy their first house. Martin (Jonathan Aris), a somewhat otherworldly estate agent , tells them of a new development called Yonder. Gemma and Tom drive out to the development with Martin where the houses there are identical suburban homes. The place is eerily silent, empty and as otherworldly as Martin. They are shown house #9 and as they explore it Martin vanishes. Gemma and Tom attempt to leave Yonder but become lost with every road they take bringing them back to #9. They eventually run out of petrol and decide to stay the night in #9.
Awakening the following morning, Tom climbs onto the roof to see if he can spot a way out of Yonder but the houses seem to go on forever. Further escape attempts just lead them back to #9 where they find a delivery box filled with prepacked food and other necessities. In a rage, Tom sets #9 ablaze, hoping to attract attention but it only results in the couple falling into a strange sleep, and awakening outside a rebuilt #9 to find a baby with instructions: “Raise the child and be released.” What follows is both a social narrative (especially at this time in the world) and a dark “Black Mirror” like science fiction morality tale.
Claustrophobic paranoia runs through the veins of this movie and Eisenberg and Poots more than bring there characters to life. When emotions run high in the film so do the audience. The less is more approach of the storytelling gives the actors plenty of room to breath life and anxiety into each situation they encounter.
Verdict: 6/10. A strong effort that is let down slightly by the fact that it reveals its cards to the audience too early in the movie and thus allows them to predict what twists and turns might be coming next.