Movie Review: ‘Vesper’

Greetings again from the darkness. We are always looking to the future, and yet so many movies paint a bleak post-apocalyptic picture of what’s ahead. Co-writers and co-directors Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper, who previously collaborated on VANISHING WAVES (2012), are joined here by co-writer Brian Clark to deliver something that still looks bleak, yet is something that not only has a unique style, it also founds a new sub-genre I’ll call arthouse science fiction.

Raffiella Chapman plays Vesper, a 13-year-old forced to survive off the shredded land while also playing caregiver to her disabled father (Richard Brake). She manages his feeding tube and is followed around by the drone through which he calmly communicates … the floating drone looks a bit like Wilson the volleyball. Vesper is also a bit rebellious and exceedingly clever and intelligent. We first see her scavenging the land for anything useful in feeding Papa or furthering her experiments in her self-made lab located in their own cabin in the woods.

It’s a dreary existence and the film even begins by informing us this is the “new Dark Ages” thanks to an ecological disaster. Genetically engineered seeds are the only hope for food, and most everything is controlled by the Citadel, which is run as an Oligarchy. Those on the outside are left to their own devices, and this includes Vesper and her ruthless Uncle Jonas (Eddie Marsan). When a glider crashes in the woods, Vesper rescues one of the injured inhabitants. Camellia (Rosy McEwen) and her shock of white hair is different … nearly ethereal and otherworldly. The two bond, but something never seems quite right.

We know a showdown is coming, but it may not be the one we expect. The film stresses the importance of the parent-child bond, as well as the importance of altruism. Even more crucial is the impact of the demise of the ecosystem. Filmmakers Buozyte and Samper use minimal special effects (especially for a sci-fi film), and still manage to create a world that seems quite real and populated with unrecognizable organisms. A cool score by Dan Levy accompanies a world that may have limited resources, but still features class division and a lust for power among some. Will we ever learn? Probably not. But a terrific performance from young Ms. Chapman and the hopeful vision of the filmmakers inspires us to keep trying.

In theaters and VOD beginning September 30, 2022

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