Starring Ellen Page. Rated 14A
Do we really need another end-times film to add to the ever-growing pile? In the case of Patricia Rozema’s Into the Forest, the answer is a definite yes, please—mostly because she has such a compelling new take on a well-worn subject.
Based on the book by Jean Hegland, it’s told from a strongly female perspective, zooming in tightly on the effect of apocalyptic events on two sisters rather than zooming out to, say, zombie masses. The fact that Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood play those deeply tied siblings helps a lot. So does a West Coast forest setting that’s so lushly lensed you can practically smell the rain-soaked moss.
Note at the beginning the way the sisters and their father rely on ever-glowing computer screens even though they live in a house in the bush (B.C. standing in for Northern California). Nell (Page) is focused on acing her SATs, Eva (Wood) on making auditions for a national dance school—with coaching and striking choreography from our own Crystal Pite.
They continue to prepare for those futures even as the electricity fails and the gasoline runs out. One of the film’s strengths is that it doesn’t explain everything, just as it doesn’t spoon-feed us details about why the two women are the way they are.
An accident shifts the pair from self-absorption to selflessness and subsistence. The male characters, and the way they challenge the central duo, are also important here, aided by nuanced performances from Max Minghella, Michael Eklund, and Callum Keith Rennie.
What Rozema and Hegland are really pondering is how we might actually reconnect if we can disconnect from technology. As the titular woods overtake the house, Into the Forest posits the very maternal idea that love and family and nature are all we need.
We could probably do with a little less back-to-the-land berry-picking, and the pair’s final decisions come too quickly to fully make sense, but Into the Forest casts a spell that doesn’t let up. It also makes you feel very secure living on the edge of the rainforest in the face of the pending apocalypse.