At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

INTO THE FOREST (Lionsgate)

By • Oct 12th, 2016 •

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BluRay review by Roy Frumkes

This one is being pitched as ‘Drama, Sci-fi’ on IMDB. It may be post-apocalyptic, but it’s hardly Sci-fi. Rather it’s an intimate survivalist story with a creepy undertone about the world having come to a complete, irreversible halt just outside our field of vision.

In their vacation house in the woods, a father and his two daughters initially think they’re surviving the night, or the week, when the electricity fails. They go about their business happily – using candles, storing up on gas. But then, around the end of Act one, crisis strikes. The girls are now on their own, and the future holds little promise of life returning to normal. One daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) has been wrapped up in her failing ballet career. The other daughter (Ellen Page) is a bit more focused, and becomes the dominant female (even though Ms. Page is 5 ft 1, but hey – so was Mae West!, and she ruled Hollywood for a few years).

The months go by, and then the years. I hate to say that the narrative has the obligatory post-apocalyptic rape scene, but it does. Breakdown of society seems to go hand in hand with this ignoble event (even in Spielberg’s recent WAR OF THE WORLDS, in the midst of a Martian invasion, Tom Cruise’s pre-teen daughter [Dakota Fanning] becomes the target of a pedophile in an environment where the rules of society have been discarded).

Ms. Wood is solid and believable in her role, if not sympathetic. Ms. Page on the other hand is award-material. She spends much of the time with a worried frown on her face, but despite that manages to mature emotionally into a complete and complex character arc, and is quite sympathetic. (Not surprisingly she is one of the film’s producers.) She’s particularly good with subtle physical indicators that are strongly felt by a viewer. This is her best role since HARD CANDY. Well, JUNO sported a pretty great performance, too.

The generally low-key crisis keeps our interest quietly attuned to the girls’ dilemma. But the ending – I’m not going to spoil it – but as I see it, one or all of them will probably be dead within a few months. I think Director Patricia Rozema was going for a metaphor, and maybe saw as hopeful what I see as madness, but even discounting my judgment, we are too engaged in the protagonists’ plight on a strictly realistic level to allow for such a leap as this film takes in its final minutes. It didn’t work for BEING THERE, an excellent film, and it doesn’t work for INTO THE FOREST, a good film. On the commentary track, the director acknowledges that many will question the ending, but that she loves it. So be it.

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