Review: Vivarium


When you’re in a relationship, there are some milestones you will reach as a couple. Whether it’s being together for one month, one year or even celebrating being five years together. For the loving couple Tom and Gemma, it’s going to live together and buying a house. Finding the right place is never easy but little did they know that it was going to be this hard? Probably not and neither do you. Not unless you’ve seen Vivarium, the immensely unique, cleverly written and stunningly performed film by director Lorcan Finnegan (Without Name).

Nothing is what it seems

Gardner, Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) and schoolteacher, Gemma (Imogen Poots) are a lovely living an ordinary life. They’re ready for the next big step and want to move in with each other. On the lookout for the perfect house, they’re meeting up with the next estate agent. The very exciting Martin (Jonathan Aris) is taking them to Yonder, the perfect residence for a young couple. However, strange things happen right from the start the couple sets foot in Yonder. Martin vanishes unexpectedly, many attempts to leave Yonder fall and after technical car difficulties, the couple has no choice but to spend the night in Yonder. A night that will change their life forever and not in a good way.

First, they discover that the food has no taste whatsoever, that the house is too perfect and that there’s no one in Yonder. It gets worse when a baby boy (Senan Jennings) is dropped off at their door. Taking care of him might be the way out. Just like everything else, the boy isn’t ordinary. We don’t want to say too much but let us tell you: He makes the life of Tom and Gemma extremely hard. The couple is being torn apart by the way they want or better-said need to raise him. How will this impact their relationship and their chances of escaping Yonder?

Jesse Eisenberg as Tom, Jonathan Aris as Martin and Imogen Poots as Gemma in Vivarium.
Jesse Eisenberg as Tom, Jonathan Aris as Martin and Imogen Poots as Gemma in Vivarium.
(Source: IMDb)

Everything is connected in one way or another

There’s so much happening in this movie and it was very difficult for us to not mention even more of the plot. It might seem that there’s too much going on but even so, Vivarium is definitely worth the watch.

The main reason is the incredible unique story. Vivarium slaps you from left to right in unseen ways. At first, things might seem to happen by accident and seem to be unrelated but by the end of the film, it turns out that everything is connected.

An eclectic and heartbreaking story wouldn’t come to life perfectly if it wasn’t for the immensely strong cast. He’s probably the most unknown castmember but Jennings (Brute) excels in this movie. Whether it’s by screaming, mimicking his on-screen parents or just staring right into the camera, he gives us the chills every single time. He gets on our nerves more than once but in an extremely good way. We don’t want to say what the relationship is between Jennings and Eanna Hardwicke (Krypton), who will also appear in this movie, cause then the fun might be gone but rest assure that also Hardwicke’s performance is a compelling and unique one.

Senan Jennings as the boy and Imogen Poots as Gemma in Vivarium.
(Source: IMDb)

Poots and Eisenberg are as stunning as Jennings and Hardwicke. Poots (Black Christmas) puts on an extremely versatile performance. One moment she brings out that sweetness of being a schoolteacher to the forefront while a moment later she becomes the more determined mother fighting for her life. No matter which emotion or situation her character has to deal with, Poots portrays it in a beautiful and captivating way. Eisenberg (Zombieland: Double Tap) his Tom has been rough though type from the beginning and because of that, Eisenberg’s performance is big on both emotional and physical levels. His performance is certainly one that keeps us mesmerized. Last but not least, there’s Jonathan Aris (Boyz in the Wood) who makes such an unforgettable and witty appearance as Martin.

What makes from Vivarium a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time is the awesome combination of the cinematic elements. The cinematography from MacGregor (Snake Bite) is crazy and vibrant when the couple is in Yonder but more ordinary and ‘average’ when they’re in the real world. The editing by Tony Cranstoun (Good Favour) adds that sinister element to this movie, especially when multiple shots are interwoven into each other. The setting? Well, what can we say about it? All the greenhouses which are the same and too perfect just set the tone for this eccentric psychedelic film instantly.

Discover a whole new dark world

After getting its UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival last year, Vivarium is returning to the UK from the 27th of March on digital platforms. Thanks to Finnegan, you have to chance to watch a gripping, stunningly performed and visually captivating movie and you should take it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

More: Read our interview with director Lorcan Finnegan.

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