By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Although Patricia Rozema’s on-screen adaptation of Jean Hegland‘s novel Into the Forest is light on the science fiction and heavy on the drama, it hardly feels like a genre product. The world has fallen apart and nobody really cares. Most of the plot is centred around two young ladies, Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) learning how to fend for themselves.
No detailed explanation is given in either version as to why the world power grid failed. A war somewhere in Europe is alluded to but none of that fallout is going to be noticed in the woodlands of North Eastern USA — well, unless an electromagnetic bomb went off in the atmosphere or NASA failed to report one massive solar flare that has taken out much of the continent.
Robert (Callum Keith Rennie) taught his daughters well and by the second act, when a logging accident knocks him out for good, the greater world does not matter anymore. Watching this film is a slow-burn; the story shifts to a cabin in the woods scenario and it becomes a character study of two young women coming of age. They have to learn how to support each other more than ever instead of isolating themselves in study or the arts to prevent from going insane.
As an intense character analysis between siblings, this movie excels. Page and Wood share a dynamic that’s quickly understood. Each of them have their own hopes for a future (Nell was going to college and Eva was going to audition for a part in an upcoming musical) but none of that matters when all the technological advances people have taken for granted can not be powered anymore. The smart home they live in is state-of-the-art. If the solar panels were installed sooner than later, they could have made it.
This film is odd because no one is sending smoke signals to call for help. More than a year passes and nobody is making the effort to find out what’s going on. The girls get visitors, but neither of those two men are good to them. In the few who were seen partying it up in the first act, the impact of the situation does not become clear to them just yet. Technically, civilization has fallen. If this film is meant to be one of those thought experiments as seen on documentary networks about the disappearance of people, gas and oil, with everything being left to fall into decay, then what’s left of humanity is doomed.
3½ Stars out of 5