Directed by | Stephen Fingleton
Produced by | David Gilbery, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones
Written by | Stephen Fingleton
Starring | Martin McCann, Mia Goth, Olwen Fouéré
Run Time | 99 minutes
Certificate | 18
Plot | Civilisation has fallen and it’s everyone for themselves. The Survivalist (McCann) has lived in relative seclusion for at least seven years, tending to his small vegetable patch. His isolation ends when Katherine (Fouéré) and her daughter Milja (Goth) arrive. An uneasy trade is made, and the fate of the three becomes intertwined in this harsh dystopian world.
Review | Bleak and unsentimental, Stephen Fingleton pulls no punches in his feature length debut.
The story itself is simple, though compelling. Our unnamed protagonist has spent around seven years tending his secluded allotment, mostly alone. When Katherine and Milja appear, he is suspicious of them and reluctant to offer help, even though he clearly has enough food to do so. Though he rejects their initial bartering of seeds for food, his more primal urges drive him to accept a more carnal bargain with the teenage daughter. Thus begins a tense, fragile alliance. In this world, everything and everyone are dangerous – every stranger a threat.
There is a brilliant subtlety to the filming of the interactions between the women and our protagonist. Is the offer to give him a shave sincere, or an opportunity to cut his throat and steal the allotment for themselves?
Credit should be given to the acting talent. With Katherine the only character seemingly free to speak at length, it is often in the glances and movements of the cast that the story is really told. McCann is particularly impressive in the lead as a man clearly suffering from some kind of PTSD. His paranoia never truly dissipates.
While he eventually gets a sliver of backstory, The Survivalist is refreshingly sparing on the details behind what caused the calamitous state of the world, instead speaking to the viewer through imagery. Where expositive dialogue is avoided, we instead get an unfiltered visual documentary of the grim everyday lives of this trio. Despite this description, there’s a sort of beautiful realism to how the scenes have been shot, with a variety of techniques employed throughout. The juxtaposition of the relatively calm forest setting with the sporadic action and hard lifestyle amounts to some visually stunning scenes.
The Survivalist will not be a film for everyone, particularly the squeamish. However, it is an interesting debut that showcases the potential that Fingleton has in bags full.
The Verdict | Bleak and unfiltered, The Survivalist is a very good dystopian lo-fi sci-fi that won’t be to everyone’s taste. 4/5