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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

The Survivalist movie review: whatever it takes

The Survivalist green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
A beautifully observed film about ugly human emotions and experiences, and a stunning example of how big a world can be sketched on a tiny budget.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It is a near future world of apocalyptically reduced resources; we learn of an oil crash that precipitated a population crash, and we may presume resource wars made the crashes even worse. But all we see now is a man (Martin McCann: X+Y) living alone in a rough cabin, eking out a hardscrabble living hidden deep in an Irish forest. And then his solitude is interrupted by the arrival of Kathryn (Olwen Fouere) and her teenaged daughter, Milja (Mia Goth: Everest), who have seeds — seeds are valuable in this world — and, er, other things to trade for food and shelter for a spell. This is a remarkable first feature from Irish director Stephen Fingleton, a stunning example of how suggestions of a much larger world can be sketched on a tiny budget and via a simple story featuring only a handful of characters. There’s not even much dialogue required: the brutal realities of this world — lacking almost all essentials from basic human trust to, you know, antibiotics — bubble up from the unspoken dynamics among these three characters, looks that shift from guarded to suspicious to aware to blissfully ignorant, and what it takes to survive often manifests in ways at first shocking and then, sometimes, cleverly practical or pragmatic yet terrible. A beautifully observed film about some very ugly human emotions and experiencestweet, The Survivalist will force you to wonder, by the time it has ended, which of the three main characters the title actually refers to, and what survival truly means in this world.


Click here for my ranking of this and 2016’s other releases.

Click here for my ranking of this and 2017’s other releases.



green light 4 stars

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The Survivalist (2016) | directed by Stephen Fingleton
US/Can release: May 19 2017 (VOD same day)
UK/Ire release: Feb 12 2016 (VOD same day)

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated 18 (brief strong sexual activity, abortion scene, strong violence)

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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