by Nicolas Rapold, published on July 28, 2016 - 7:00 AM|
Some postapocalyptic movies make way for tomorrow, inhabiting a modishly hellish future of one stage-managed form or another. Others, what might be termed the tick-tock variety, sit and watch the present, decaying. The spectacle of the civilized world deteriorating—as cars, clocks, food supplies, and human decency sputter out and fail—reflects upon the passage of time, which we ordinarily do everything within our power to conceal.
Patricia Rozema’s Into the Forest is that tick-tock kind, set almost entirely in and around a house on a wooded mountainside, where one day the power goes out—and stays out. Two sisters live with their father, and rather than the thought experiment of life without electricity and infrastructure, the story centers on the relationship between the young women, and the threat posed by the disastrous isolation. Even if Ellen Page may be pushing it as Nell, a teenager studying for the SATs, she and Evan Rachel Wood, as her prematurely-over-the-hill dancer sister Eva, sketch out a poignant bond under strain.
Rozema, a Canadian filmmaker who quietly blazed an independent path including a Mansfield Park during the 1990s Austen-splosion, portrays Nell and Eva’s home less as a pretty sylvan prison and more as a nice place in the country going to seed. Television and YA novels have done their share of cross-breeding drama and extreme genre-determined scenarios; Rozema’s sturdy film tugs effectively at the heartstrings with its tragic spiral and infuses one assault scene with true camera-canting terror. Undergirding all of this is how Nell and Eva must rush to grow up in new ways, in a world that’s rapidly leaving them behind.