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Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots star in "Vivarium." // Courtesy of Mongrel Media

Review: Lorcan Finnegan’s Vivarium

Directed by Lorcan Finnegan; written by Lorcan Finnegan and Garret Shanley; available on VOD and Apple TV Fri., Mar. 27.
Our Score

In some ways Lorcan Finnegan couldn’t have asked for a better time for his film Vivarium to be released. Sure, the theatrical release had to be cancelled, but the way this film mirrors current self-isolation practices helps make it that much creepier.

Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) are in the market to buy a house, but instead end up stuck in deserted suburbia raising some kind of supernatural spawn. From there, the film is a slow burn thriller that has the audience waiting on reveals and resolution—though that expectation may lead to disappointment for some.

What stands out about this film is really the production design. The ‘idyllic’ suburb Gemma and Tom find themselves trapped in combines both 1950s and Ikea aesthetics with an otherworldly aspect that’s just a little too creepy to be insta-worthy, but looks great on screen. 

Poots arguably has the strongest role in the script and gives a captivating performance—though with such a small cast there’s no room for weak performances either. Eisenberg arguably has less to do in the film, but is perfectly cast as Tom. 

The boy the couple raises is played by two actors: Senan Jennings who plays the boy when he’s younger and Eanna Hardwicke who plays the character once he’s matured. Jennings’ part has a little bit more range: he alternates between temper tantrums and a creepy calm stare, sometimes transitioning between the two in a blink. Hardwicke’s role is more cold, more calculated. What makes the role creepy is his ability to maintain an expressionless stare.

Jonathan Aris (Sherlock, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) plays Martin, the real estate agent who ropes Gemma and Tom into his home-buyers trap, and his performance early in the film sets the tone as he walks the line between creepy and humorous. 

The pacing could be the film’s weak point, as it’s pretty slow and will likely rub some people the wrong way—especially if you don’t find the film’s conclusion offers a big enough pay off. On the other hand, the slow pacing adds to the film’s suspense and if you enjoy the finale, you may find the film satisfying.

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