What if everything just turned off one day? No internet, no phone, no power. Nothing.
That’s the intriguing backdrop for director Patricia Rozema’s Into the Forest, a small scale survival tale which imagines the end of the world not caused by an alien invasion or some natural disaster, but simply from a continent-wide power outage that’s never fully explained. Based on Jean Hegland’s 1996 novel, the film stars Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood as stepsisters living at a remote cabin with their father (Callum Keith Rennie) when the lights go out. Things begin to deteriorate quickly – as they tend to in these sorts of scenarios – and the young women must learn to survive in this new unplugged world.
Page and Wood are in top form, laying absolutely everything on the table both emotionally and physically for their respective roles. But the film, by its nature, doesn’t give the two a whole lot to do beyond subsist and survive. The remoteness of their cabin makes it a safe haven (most of the time), but it also means not a whole lot happens. Spread over almost two years, the movie takes on an an almost episodic feeling as time passes: A problem presents itself, the sisters work together to overcome it, fast forward a few months to when the next serious challenge to their survival crops up. Who said the end of the world was going to be exciting? Success for the pair is measured in small victories, like figuring out where their next meal is going to come from.
Rozema sets the scene effectively, getting the most from her actors and turning the picturesque back country of BC’s Vancouver Island into a truly terrifying and claustrophobic place to live out the end of the world. I’ve never been more afraid of the woods or of other people than I was while watching this movie. It’s refreshing to see an apocalyptic scenario that doesn’t involve zombies or chrome hot rods – the film is simply women versus nature. It’s depressing that such a concept should seem novel in this day and age, but Into the Forest is not the sort of movie that gets made very often. That said, while the two leads are so compelling to watch, the movie is sure to leave viewers wanting. If only it all went somewhere. As interesting as the premise is and as good as Page and Wood’s performances are, Into the Forest meanders from crisis to crisis, crossing the finish line with a bizarre finale that, while certainly moving, is likely to leave most audiences shrugging.