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Z FOR ZACHARIAH (review)

z_for_zachariahZ FOR ZACHARIAH

Written by Nizzar Modi / Directed by Craig Zobel / Starring Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine

In 2012, Craig Zobel’s COMPLIANCE shocked and captivated audiences across North America. The film was frustrating, in both its claustrophobic setting and disturbing content. Nonetheless, it was truly a massive achievement for the novice filmmaker. Zobel returns with Z FOR ZACHARIAH, a film that once again strands its characters, yet comes off as more soothing than upsetting.

After an unmentioned catastrophic event has left the world littered with deadly amounts of radiation, Ann (Margot Robbie) lives alone with her dog in her family’s home. For some unexplained reason, the surrounding area of land has been untouched by the dangerous emission. After her parents and brother went in search of survivors many months earlier, Ann has gotten used to living alone. Her calm lifestyle is disrupted when she discovers Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor), sick from being exposed to radioactive water. She brings Loomis back to her home and begins to nurse him back to health. A relationship forms, and everything seems to being going well, until the peaceful Caleb (Chris Pine) comes along to spoil the fun.

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For its first half, Z FOR ZACHARIAH plays as a very interesting two-hander. Ann and Loomis are both very different people; Ann being a devout Christian, and Loomis some sort of scientist. As they become continually attracted to one another, the audience is forced to wonder whether their affection comes from a true personal desire, or the buildup of lust from being alone for so long. Then Caleb shows up, and the film takes a turn for the worse. What was initially an intimate study of two people thrust together, turns into a predictable and groan inducing love triangle. Though, this does allow for the film’s sole comedic moment, when Loomis tells Ann that she and Caleb can “go be white people together.” Other than that, not much comes out of Caleb’s presence. With his arrival, the film immediately focuses on the love triangle, making no effort to flesh out Caleb as a character. This is incredibly frustrating, given how well Ann and Loomis were developed. With little known about Caleb, audiences will be quick to side with Loomis. Whether this was in fact Zobel’s intention remains unclear.

Robbie and Ejiofor are both fantastic in their roles. Screenwriter Nizzar Modi has given them great material to work with, but the two ultimately do their best work when they are not saying anything at all. While his character is underdeveloped, Pine brings a lot to the role of Caleb. He is somehow able to be both charming and off-putting which adds a complexity to Caleb’s relationships with Ann and Loomis.

75

While the introduction of a third character mid-way through does not do much good for the film, Z FOR ZACHARIAH is as times still an enthralling film. Structural problems aside, audiences will be treated to incredible performances from some of Hollywood’s best young actors. With this effort, Zobel seems to be taking an unexpected direction, so it should be quite interesting to see what he does next.

3.5 sheep

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4 (80%) 1 vote

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