Tuesday, September 1, 2015


A post apocalyptic-world is always a good setting for storytelling. Characters who are left with little or nothing of their past lives and stuck in a hopeless situation can bring out the best and worst in them, and the stories never seem to have any limits. Craig Zobel’s adaptation of Z FOR ZACHARIAH is all about these characters, with the end of the world coming secondary. 

Ann (Margot Robbie) is living alone on her family’s farm during the days and years after a nuclear war has wiped out most of the world. She encounters Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a scientist and engineer, and the two work together to restore electricity to the farm. As they grow closer, another wanderer, Caleb (Chris Pine) arrives looking for food, and he and Loomis begin competing for Ann. 

Characters who are left isolated with nothing but themselves and a will to live opens up a lot of territory, and Z FOR ZACHARIAH is not shy about exploring it all. Ann and Loomis spend most of the film together, and with her being the faithful type and he being an atheist, the two characters work and prod each other, looking for a middle ground as they learn to cope with each other and the situation. Romance seems inevitable, and that is made even more complicated when Caleb enters the picture. A love triangle comes up, but director Craig Zobel doesn’t let his film fall into the standard fare of two men beating their chests looking to win the girl. Loomis is annoyed by Caleb’s intrusion, but at the same time knows that he is a necessary extra pair of hands. A series of minor mind games takes place, with Loomis playing the two like pieces on a chess board, in order to accomplish the work they need to in order to survive the upcoming winter.  Character motivations are kept close to the chest, and much of the film is spent wondering who is up to what and who will come out on top. Zobel is playing with an Adam and Eve metaphor, and with Ann obviously taking the Eve role...the only question to be answered is who is Adam and who is the Snake. 

Shot in the country of New Zealand, which stands in for the deep south, Zobel explores the lush countryside while filming a beautiful looking picture, and Heather McIntosh's haunting score adds some great atmosphere. There is no CGI used to show burned out cities or vast devastated landscapes, nor is there any explanation over the apparent war which has left our characters alone. The focus is all on the immediate happenings with our cast of three (and one dog) and the secrets they hold. Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of the film is that there are no killer zombies or rampaging cannibals to avoid; the real threat the characters have to deal with is each other

And the small cast is magnificent. Margot Robbie puts in her best work to date, working with no makeup and a strong southern accent, she vanishes into the character and proves that she can act with more than just her body. Chiwetel Ejiofor is also strong as usual, and Chris Pine also puts in an excellent performance; ranging from cunning to sly to charming in the blink of an eye. 

There are many themes that Z FOR ZACHARIAH plays with; faith, hope, trust, etc…and not all of them are completely resolved by the end; an ending which can and will take some breaths away and have good folk leaving the theatre in a great debate of what happened. It’s a subtle gut-punch, and the journey to get there was more than worth the while. 


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