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VIFF 2015 review: ‘Into The Forest’ is required watching for a pre-apocalyptic generation

Saturday 24th, October 2015 / 14:33
By Thalia Stopa

VANCOUVER — Quiz time: It’s the end of the world and you’re stranded in a tech-smart but unfinished cabin outside of a remote town in the Pacific Northwest wilderness – who do you want at your side? After seeing Into the Forest, the latest film from writer-director Patricia Rozema (Mansfield Park) the answer is obvious: Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood. Or more accurately, their characters Nell and Eva.

Based on the 1998 novel of the same name, Into the Forest is nonetheless a post-apocalyptic tale for the current generation, especially given recent trends toward revisiting the land, slow food, traditional craft, and homemaking. Full of poignant close-up shots and montages of nature and humanity at its most beautiful and intimate, it’s a feast for the senses that will surely inspire a resurgence in the aforementioned movement. It’s also a feminist film, without really touting itself as one.

The story begins with teenagers Nell and Eva and their widower father Robert (Callum Keith Rennie) at a time in the two sisters’ lives when both are coming of age and on determined paths – studious Nell is preparing for her SATs and Eva is in training to audition for a dance company. Their modern-day aspirations are dashed when a mysterious incident renders the main power plant useless, followed in close succession by complete radio silence. What ensues is a new journey as character-building as it is unsure and hopeful. The story follows a familiar formula, with the typical checklist of conflicts to overcome in order to survive the end of the world: food and water, shelter, human indecency, nature, death, birth, family, and romance. The characters and their decisions set this film apart from the pack, and make it the most honest and relatable to come out of its genre in recent memory. Nell and Eva aren’t superwomen – they are real woman full of weaknesses as well as strengths, indecision and doubt along with resilience and resourcefulness.

Into the Forest is the type of film that should be required watching for high school or early University students. Granted, a more apt suggestion would be that they should teach the novel – you know, in case the TV goes out during the apocalypse.

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