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‘Into the Forest’ brings some realness to the world of dystopian movies
by Jared Huizenga, published on July 29, 2016 - 2:00 PM
How would you respond when staring down the end of the world? Or at the very least the end of the world as you knew it?
Would you adapt and thrive in the new world or would you simply cower in the shadows and slowly fade away?
That’s the challenge facing sisters Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) in “Into the Forest,” which is adapted from the novel of the same name by Jean Hegland.
Nell and Eva live on a remote farm in the Canadian wilderness with their dad (Callum Rennie). Each has their own obsession. For Nell it’s her studies and for Eva it’s her fledgling dance career. Those obsessions are pushed to the back burner when a blackout wipes out everything from coast to coast.
Cell phone service is out, electricity is a thing of the past, gas is at a premium and as the weeks and months roll by, food becomes a luxury item for most.
With reserves of water, chickens, pigs and a substantial food cache, the small family holds out better than most – despite occasional moments of weakness over missing things like music and the internet.
But life takes a turn again after tragedy strikes, leaving Nell and Eva on their own. They must now protect themselves from nature, starvation, disease and unwanted attention from people determined to take what they have left.
Despite its apocalyptic theme, “Into the Forest” isn’t packed full of action, even in its most exciting moments. Instead, it relies heavily on character development, dialogue, sincerity and chemistry between the two leads, and a never-ending supply of suspense to drive the story.
And it’s very successful in doing so.
Fair warning, while this is most definitely a story about love, adaptation and the will to survive, there are some dark themes that rear their ugly heads from time to time. Director/writer Pamela Rozema doesn’t pull any punches when delivering them either.
If my count is correct, there are about three scenes you’ll want to avoid if you’re even the slightest bit squeamish. They’re not gratuitous by any stretch of the imagination and they are all defining moments in the story, but be prepared.
I appreciate the realism portrayed in these situations. These are the real dangers someone would face in these situations – we’re not talking zombies or mutants or government conspiracies. This is the type of “reality” that the folks on “Doomsday Preppers” are readying themselves for – except this feels much more realistic and reasonable than that.
Page and Wood are outstanding in their dual lead roles. They have a palpable chemistry and in short order they are sisters – best friends one moment, worst enemies the next – but always caring and loyal to one another. We’ve seen glimpses of potential from these two over the years (Wood in “Thirteen” and Page in “Juno”), but it’s been a while for true standout performances from either. They both deliver here and in very powerful ways.
The other star of the show is, not surprising given the name of the movie, the forest. Filmed in British Columbia, the lush wilderness provides a wonderful backdrop for the film. It’s beautiful in a very minimalist sort of way – you know it’s there and from time to time it steals the scene, but most often it’s just pleasant and doesn’t draw attention away from the stars or the story.
At 101 minutes, “Into the Forest” is brisk and it fits a whole lot of story into a tight time frame. However, it never feels rushed and virtually everything that comes up is fully fleshed out. There aren’t really any questions – at least ones vital to the overall narrative – that aren’t answered by the time the credits roll.
“Into the Forest” is powerful, gritty and enjoyable. Well, at least as enjoyable as a movie about what might be the end of days can be.