The Survivalist (2015)

the survivalist

Director: Stephen Fingleton
Starring: Martin McCann, Mia Goth, Olven Fouere. Ireland/UK. 1h 43m

A impressive and unusual post apocalyptic survival story, if the title didn’t give that away already.. instead of a desert wasteland and zombies this lush yet bleak take on our future is incredibly intense and thought provoking.

Unnamed and isolated a young man forges a future for himself in the wilderness, growing what food he can on land littered with the bodies of those who have tried to rob him in the past. Eventually his solitary existence is disturbed by two starving visitors, a young girl Milija (Mia Goth) and her long silver haired banshee of a mother Kathryn (Olwen Fouéré), who first offer the man seeds then sex for food and shelter. Eventually unspoken rules and a tentative bond is formed although everyone is striving to survive and no one fully trusted.

What a beautiful debut from director Stephen Fingleton who not only scraps all the clichés of the sandy apocalypse for lush green dystopian dreamscape, the lack of a soundtrack is instead replaced by the sounds of a babbling brook, clacking of broken glass and tin cans. Some of the production choices were a sensible choice when considering the tiny budget, not literally on par with Primer (2004), but it was still cheap compared to a lot of other films out there today.

Unsettling and impressive, the acting is perfect, and this unlikely trio have to act their asses off as there is little dialogue, but what is there to say when your on the brink of starvation and day by day working out if you may be killed or have to kill to survive, it’s a meager existence. There are several power shifts, which get more edgy between the survivalist and Milija (his preferred bed fellow), in one tense scene she tries to shave him, as she’s approaching with a knife outstretched, to kill or genuinely to shave? along with the power aspect obviously there are haunting scenes of vulnerability too usually shown in it’s rawest form, nakedness.

It was a pleasant surprise to see such a detailed story stripped down, without the need and overuse of explosion to rock your fillings or to risk the lives of hundreds of stuntmen but to reflect on all those questions of what we could be reduced to if our end became very nigh. It’s interesting that a solid reason isn’t given to the situation, it reduces the need to go into how we got into this state and so no long explanations, not cause and effect, nothing to fight or protect against. We’re simply shown the aftermath and in this anti eden a beautiful and gritty story is etched out. It’s incredibly gritty with lots of plot twists and turns, after all who wouldn’t be desperate on the brink of extinction!? A very poignant ending that tops everything off nicely, there isn’t a lot at fault in this film.


Rating 8/10

RMad Max 2 (1981), Primer (2004),
L – Dystopia, Post Apocalyptic Films, Selected Irish films, What the future has in store.
A – What have movies taught us about the future
Vs – Apocalypse Showdown
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