Vivarium – Review

Director: Lorcan Finnegan

Starring: Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Senan Jennings, Jonathan Aris and Eanna Hardwicke

Run time: 1h 37min

Certificate: 15

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Teacher Gemma (Poots) and gardener boyfriend Tom (Eisenberg) are taking their relationship to the next level by looking to buy the perfect home together. Their search takes them to Yonder, a seemingly idyllic new-build development of suburban houses. After viewing one of the properties, the pair find themselves trapped in a labyrinth like neighbourhood as row upon row of identical dwellings and roads somehow leads them back to number 9.

If things couldn’t get any weirder, they discover a baby in a cardboard box with a note stating, ‘raise the baby and be released’. But this isn’t any ordinary baby boy. This is one that grows at an alarming rate, does grotesque impersonations of the two people he sees as his parents and screams (I mean, properly screams) relentlessly until he gets what he wants. That last one might not seem that strange to any parents reading this but, trust me, the horrendous screeching this child makes is terrifying.

Angry and confused by their situation, Gemma and Tom’s plight begins to divide them. Desperate times call for desperate measures and so Tom seeks answers from his front yard digging and digging to try and get to the bottom of things. Gemma attempts to engage with the boy (he doesn’t have a name), but her questions only complicate matters even more.

Quirky, tense and superbly brought to life, Vivarium is as fascinating as it is strange. A satirical examination of parenthood and the very real struggles that come with the issues faced by all new parents. Even the bliss of spending some time alone whilst spending a penny on the loo is highlighted as is the wholly unreasonable cacophony of noise these little people are somehow capable of making ALL THE TIME!

Poots and Eisenberg are brilliant together, both instantly likeable and warranting empathy as their chosen paths lead them to different places, yet ultimately back together. The strain placed on their relationship is heart-breaking as they attempt to make sense of their plight. As good as their performances are, they’re not to be upstaged by the two incarnations of the cause of their problems. Senan Jennings as Young Boy and Eanna Hardwicke as Older Boy are two of the most sinister and complex individuals I’ve seen on screen for a long time. Jonathan Aris also deserves mentioning for making a small part freakishly memorable.

There are many moments of dark humour to be found amidst the mysterious goings on and a wry observation about the seemingly never-ending turnover of estate agents. Director Lorcan Finnegan and fellow screenplay writer Garret Shanley have crafted a magnificently eccentric and unusual world which, frustratingly yet somehow perfectly, leaves many questions unanswered.

Vivarium screams into UK cinemas on March 27th.

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