A young couple is interested in buying a home. They walk into the office of a nearby development called Yonder. Gemma (played by Imogen Poots) and Tom (Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg) meet the oddball agent, Martin, who persuasively convinces them to take a drive to said development.
When they arrive, things start to get a little freaky. And from there, well, what only happens in the movies indeed happens.
Does this sound like a ride you’re willing to take? “Vivarium” writer Garret Shanley and director Lorcan Finnegan are hoping you’ll sign on the dotted line. The opening act, the most intriguing, puzzling and effective, is a mixture of “The Twilight Zone” and “The Truman Show” with a splash of “Edward Scissorhands”.
The problem is, as “Vivarium” progresses it doesn’t deliver the creative juice or bizarre pulse of a Tim Burton or Peter Weir film. This movie asks the viewer to be very patient. You wait and wait and wait (as Tom digs and digs and digs) to see how things shake-out. It’s mysterious and creepy, but also gloomily repetitive.
And it’s all (I guess) supposed to be some sort of social commentary. But the takes on life in the suburbs, gender roles and raising children are all stretched to extreme yet uninspired levels. Poots and Eisenberg themselves seem trapped in a script that has surprisingly boxed itself in, given its unlimited potential.
There is a legit sense of anticipation to see how things will play out. But once they do, there’s little in the way of satisfaction.
For me, the best Sci-fi films are the ones that successfully mix fantasy and reality. But when it comes to “Vivarium”, it’s a “No Sale”.