Monday, January 2, 2017

Code Green

Remember the 2003 power outage that took out all the lights on the U.S. eastern seaboard? If you were hanging out with your parents on break from college, playing Scrabble by candlelight and having some beer with your dogs, it was kind of fun. But had that outage continued for weeks, then months, then years, it would be, well, not LESS fun because if your best skill was Scrabble then you would probably be dead before anything got too intense, but you see the point.

Quick Plot: Nelly, a brainy high school student, and Eva, a dancer, live with their widowed father in a secluded modern home surrounded by forestry. One night, without any warning, the power goes out...everywhere.

With limited gasoline, the family makes one trip into town to learn that supplies are quickly disappearing and some suspicious characters may be one toecutter away from a Mad Max -esque society (the first one; we're not quite in mohawk territory just yet). Thankfully, the house has a large supply of food and water, so things should work out just fine until the nation puts everything back in order.


A freak accident leaves Nelly and Eva alone, save for the occasional threats of marauders and dreamboats with the ability to split up the tight pair. Between boredom, fear, and possible starvation, can the gals make it?

Based on a novel of the same name, Into the Forest doesn't quite fit your typical picture of a post-apocalyptic survival tale. As written and directed by Patricia Rozema, this is a quiet almost coming-of-age story about two young women figuring out what life is now that their world has completely shattered. The once SAT obsessed Nelly refocuses her intelligence on flora and fauna, while Eva slowly puts away her Alvin Ailey dreams for more primal matters. More importantly, the women need to learn how to trust and challenge each other.

I wasn't expecting what I got with Into the Forest, but much like the similar in tone How I Live Now, I was thoroughly satisfied. Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood have always been exceptional actresses with mature taste in projects, and it's kind of amazing here how both can believably play teenagers while bringing a certain actorly wisdom to their craft. They joke like sisters, fight like sisters, and ultimately display that kind of familial bond that is as frustrating as it is strong.

Where the story may lose some viewers is in its pacing. Not much really happens in the conventional plot-sense of Into the Forest, and we never see the bigger picture of how the rest of the world is handling the disaster. For me, that was fine: Nelly and Eva are compelling enough on their own that I was thoroughly satisfied with the story being told to me, even if I went into it expecting more action. This is a slow, thoughtful tale, and if you enter it knowing that, I think you'll find a lot.

High Points
I don't know much about director Rozema, but I absolutely loved her approach to the material in all areas of filmmaking. At the risk of bringing up something unimportant in order to make a point about its importance, let's focus for a moment on how nudity is handled onscreen. Because of what the characters are going through, there are times when it makes sense for them to, well, not be fully clothed. In the hands of another director, this could have read as gratuitous or worse, falsely coy (see: my constant annoyance when female characters wear bras to bed to avoid an R-rating). In the case of Into the Forest, these moments read perfectly natural. It's fascinating how far that goes in putting the audience at absolute comfort and trust with the material. 

Low Points
While obvious decisions about timing had to made in a movie that stretches just around two years, some feel a little abrupt in terms of skipping over key periods of character/world development

Lessons Learned
The danger of nicknaming your children after vegetables becomes far more apparent during times of famine

Encyclopedias may seem like ancient relics on your bookshelves, but take away the internet and how else are you going to learn which berries won't kill you? 

Sisters exist primarily to help assist in childbirth


If, like me, you froth at the suggestion of anything set at the start of a new apocalypse, then you’ll probably want to check out Into the Forest on those merits alone. So long as you know you’re getting a quiet, sisterly survival tale and now an assless chap-filled action romp, then I think you’ll find the experience rather beautiful. 


  1. I enjoy both these actresses and love anything apocalypsey so might need to check it out!