Handyman Tom (as played by Jesse Eisenberg) and primary teacher school teacher Gemma (as played by Imogen Poots) are on the lookout for their first home. However, when they step through the door of estate agent Mart (an excellently creepy, Jonathan Aris) he refuses to let them go until he has shown them the Yonder housing development.
Following him, in their car, Yonder is revealed to be a banal collection of identical houses, all doused in a turquoise colour scheme. Playing along with Martin, they let him show them inside a house. However, when he disappears on them, they try to leave Yonder only to discover that every house they pass, resembles the same one they’ve just stepped out of…
...ultimately Vivarium is a film that needs to break its own conventions rather than follow them all the way through to the end..
Director Lorcan Finnegan’s Vivarium is a film that revels in that English kind of politeness that suffocates normal rationale thought when you should be listening to it telling you to “get the hell out of there”. Much like director Peter Strickland’s In Fabric, where Marianne Jean-Baptiste’s Sheila is rebuffed by a wall of politeness when she tries to return a murderous dress, Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots find themselves similarly rooted by the spot Jonathan Aris’s awkward estate agent.
Now trapped in a Truman Show like vista where the fake sky, clouds and housetops seemingly go on forever, they are unsure who is watching them. And much like a real-life Vivarium, which is an enclosed space for the study of animal and plant life, the film seeks to make you a complicit voyeur in the mounting terror that is visited upon them. And whilst it is reasonably effective in doing this, it is the passage of time that might slowly undo your interest.
Like a short story stretched out too long, in the end, Vivarium’s depiction of monotony becomes dangerously soporific and in the end, the movie becomes an all-too precise bedsheet to rest any lasting praise upon.
Jesse Eisenberg is good and Imogen Poots steals many of the later scenes but ultimately Vivarium is a film that needs to break its own conventions rather than follow them all the way through to the end.
See what you think but I think you might escape earlier than they did.