The Survivalist

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Stephen Fingleton

Starring

Andrew Simpson Martin McCann Mia Goth

Anticipation.

Thumbs have been up on the festival circuit.

Enjoyment.

Impressive more than enjoyable. Extremely well put together.

In Retrospect.

Not quite the full article, but enough to suggest its director has a bright future.

British director Stephen Fingleton announces himself with this thoroughly enjoyable dystopian sci-fi.

If we keep burning fossil fuels at the rate we’re going, the world will be transformed into a barren wasteland in which the survivors will battle for supremacy with the tools that remain. No, not the first instalment of a new YA sci-fi franchise, but a taciturn art film by director Stephen Fingleton. Paranoia reigns in this bloodthirsty dystopia where human contact is usually accompanied with extreme violence.

A lone survivor with swept-back hair played by Martin McCann tends to his crop, fertilising the soil with a rotting human corpse. Seldom without his rifle, this young man waits for people to pay him a visit so he can dispatch them before they sully his rural idyll. One day an old woman (Olwen Fouere) and her daughter (Mia Goth), tip-toe down his garden path in search of bed and board. But who are they? Are they alone, or an advance party for a gang of hooded marauders? He’s right to think that they’re here to grab his patch, and treats them with caution.

With a script that you could probably fit on to a single cocktail napkin, Fingleton’s language is action not words. Why speak when a fierce glare can do the talking? The claustrophobia of this depopulated world is heightened by filming in close-ups, seldom allowing the viewer to see beyond the narrow perspective of the hero. As a calling card movie, it’s mightily impressive; dramatically lean, gripping where it needs to be, and a story told with satisfying economy.

As robust as it is, the film sorely lacks for originality, as this set-up is essentially co-opted from every zombie movie ever made. And while McCann is clearly consumed entirely by his character, he’s not a tremendously exciting companion to spend time with. But The Survivalist is a gleaming golden ticket to Tinseltown, and it’ll be fascinating to see whether Fingleton takes up the offer or choses to plough his own Bible-black art-house furrow.

Published 11 Feb 2016

Anticipation.

Thumbs have been up on the festival circuit.

Enjoyment.

Impressive more than enjoyable. Extremely well put together.

In Retrospect.

Not quite the full article, but enough to suggest its director has a bright future.

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