When I first pitched a review of Vivarium back in January, I imagined I’d be writing up an atmospheric, indie thriller that skewered the housing crisis and satirised millenials trying to get on the property ladder. But who could have foreseen the film’s reception so wildly altered by its arrival amidst a global pandemic?
Now this story of a couple who, through mysterious circumstances, are unable to leave their sterile, scrubs-coloured house, reverberates with an entirely different crisis. Through eerie coincidence, it cuts rather close to the bone; for those willing to brave it, this comic horror parable offers as sharp, bizarre, and bracing pleasures as sucking on a lemon.
Through eerie coincidence, it cuts rather close to the bone; for those willing to brave it, this comic horror parable offers as sharp, bizarre, and bracing pleasures as sucking on a lemon
Souring the mood from the opening credits is the image of predatory cuckoos dislodging baby birds from their nest. Thus ‘nesting’ and the pedestrian cruelty of nature is at the forefront of our minds as we meet Gemma (Imogen Poots), a nursery school teacher instructing her class to mime being the wind through the trees. She loves her job and these kids.
Her boyfriend Tom seems nice enough, a down-to-earth gardener, playful and optimistic — but he’s played by Jesse Eisenberg, who seems to be perennially cast as an a**hole (see The Social Network, for instance). There’s a spikiness to him — real or imagined — even when he’s being sweet.