Vivarium – Review

Bland, everyday, repetitive suburban life is absolutely terrifying. At least, it is to me.

Vivarium is a 2019 film from director Lorcan Finnegan that I only just got the chance to watch. It’s a strange little film about a couple, elementary school teacher Gemma (Imogen Poots) and school gardener Tom (Jesse Eisenberg). The two are looking for a home and wind up visiting a realtor for the development known as Yonder. Martin (Jonathan Aris), the realtor, is a freaky dude that seems to speak in unusual patterns and with uncomfortable diction (let us not cast shade on those with legitimate speech impediments). He convinces them to visit the development and look at their potential home, house #9. When they turn their backs he vanishes. The couple tries to escape, always winding up back at the same house and eventually spending the night. When a baby in a box shows up with the instructions “raise the baby and be released” they realize they’re trapped in something more than they are equipped to deal with. 

Look, I dug this from about twenty minutes in. Early scenes are uncomfortable and awkward, but they lay the groundwork for larger developments down the road. Eisenberg and Poots have been together before, but this lets them explore their magnetic chemistry more directly and in a smaller, boxed-in setting. 

And I’m just as uncomfortable as they are! Have you seen any trailers or still from this? The housing development is what happens when Tim Burton finds his final form. Every house is that seafoam green that was popular in the 60s. They all have the exact same layout and design. There are thousands of them. It’s disgusting and I could name several people I know that would be comforted by the terrifying comfort of it. Hell, the clouds look like they’re straight out of Andy’s wallpaper in Toy Story. It’s the ideal suburban life with all of the horrors that come with it.

Poots and Eisenberg embody those disillusioned with that lifestyle perfectly. The child grows quickly and they resent it, reeking of absolute hatred towards the thing that keeps them from their release. Buying a dream home, eating food that’s supposed to be normal, teaching a child about dogs, it’s all a harsh view on what we’re supposed to want as Westerners in a modern society. This couple comes to resent the trappings thrust on them without much say and desperately hope for the chance to take violent action against the people that stuck them in the situation. That chance goes unfulfilled, as it does for millions out there that end up stuck in the ouroboros lifestyle that can’t possibly have a happy ending. 

Vivarium is wildly convoluted and will be too much for most people, but those willing to fixate on its Twilight Zone energy are going to feel rewarded. It’s bizarre and aggressively obsessed with not only consumer culture and suburbanites but also the horrors of child-rearing. It’s a mean little movie, one that takes no prisoners and doesn’t ask you to keep on the sunny side of jack shit. If you’re able to handle that then this is definitely worth your time. Hell, even some that I know who adore their homes and lifestyles might just gaze wistfully at this. I’d be curious to see a lot of reactions to this.

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