by Devan Coggan, published on July 28 2016 - 1:54 PM EDT|
More often than not, Hollywood likes to tackle the end of the world with a bang: massive epidemics, planes falling out of the sky, mindless hordes of brain-guzzling zombies. But Into the Forest, writer-director Patricia Rozema’s adaptation of Jean Hegland’s 1996 novel, takes a quieter and more unsettling approach, focusing on two sisters’ struggle to survive after the power goes out—permanently.
Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood star as Nell and Eva, two young girls living with their widower father (Callum Keith Rennie) in an isolated section of the Pacific Northwest. The younger Nell is obsessed with studying for her SATs, while Eva has dedicated her life to dance, but their idyllic life is soon interrupted by a massive nationwide power outage. Initially, they settle in to wait it out, but when supplies start to dwindle, they make the trek into town, where the store shelves have been stripped bare, gas is a scarce commodity, and the townspeople have taken on a wary distrust of each other. The trio returns home, but as the days turn into weeks, and the weeks turn into months, Eva and Nell are soon forced to get by without their father as they learn how to find food, avoid unwelcome visitors, and try to keep their spirits up.
Rozema’s tale is set slightly in the future—the TVs and computers look like something Tony Stark might have designed—but once the lights go out, the story takes on a timeless quality, as Eva and Nell try to carve out an existence in the woods. As stories go, this one is largely plotless, focusing mainly on Eva and Nell’s daily life, and what little storyline there is feels far too predictable. As a result, Into the Forest is much more of a quiet character study than an unsettling thriller (although one act of violence against Eva is particularly horrifying). Page and Wood, who are both in their upper 20s, hardly make for convincing teenagers, but they both lend weight to Eva and Nell’s sisterly bond as the two siblings slowly unravel.