-A post-apocalyptic tale that’s high on atmosphere, but low on excitement, and a standard-fare civil war drama.

Our first rental is a rather divisive indie that never opened nationwide in theaters, but finally opened at Redbox to allow me to head out and rent it because of a promising concept with three actors that I truly like in Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood, and Callum Keith Rennie.

While I’ve never experienced a Patricia Rozema film before, she has had success in film festivals, but Into the Forest got a pretty divisive reception from critics and audiences alike, with some people really feeling that the film was meandering, others really appreciating the tone and performances. I can say that I lie a little bit in-between. There’s a lot of good stuff with Into the Forest, but it also completely falls apart at the conclusion, and is tough to sit through for the entire two hours.

It’s a pretty standard post-apocalyptic story-line, involving a nationwide power outage that changes the lives for many. Society holds up for a little while, but it begins to fall apart with looting, hunger, disease, and other things avoided by modern technology. Our protagonist family is a resourceful one, living mostly out of the town, and free of many of the problems that plague the residents during the shut-off. The two sisters, both about 20, are portrayed by Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood, with their father being played by Callum Keith Rennie. Ellen Page’s Nell is ready for college, and hates separation from her boyfriend Eli (Max Minghella), while Evan Rachel Wood’s Eva is preparing for a big dance audition. When an accident happens to the father, the girls are left alone, surviving off of the land and what food they were able to stock up on before the crisis. Once it begins, their sisterly bond is surely tested in an awful, multi-month ordeal through this.

We have a very tight and well-directed movie for the first two acts, where although there isn’t a ton of action, we really do get invested in our two main characters and root for them through this pretty standard apocalypse story. It definitely is directed with more of an indie flair than your average post-apocalyptic storyline, but the bells and whistles of this will be very familiar. It’s the score and the performances that kept me engaged, and also the fact that they lived in this super-nice, sophisticated home that begins deteriorating over time without proper upkeep. It was a very good visual queue for the destruction of their former, more comfortable life.

Just note that it does completely fly off the rails in the third act, mostly because the story changes to a different focus. Although we still want to root for the sisters, I was beginning to count down the minutes until the movie was over. Keep it as a harsh and tentative recommendation for this film, but it’s totally not a dark, indie-world beater like I had hoped from the trailers and the A24 production credit.

 

3 stars

Into the Forest (2016)

Genre: Drama

Director: Patricia Rozema (Mansfield Park, I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing)

Starring: Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella, Callum K Rennie, and Michael Eklund

RT Score: 78%


Free State of Jones is the newest performance by the red-hot Matthew McConaughey, and it’s made fairly competently. I want to keep this review short because it is, very much, a bare-bones Civil War biopic. There’s a section of people who will really like this movie and become completely transfixed by the subject matter, and there’re others who will be pretty monstrously bored.

The film details a man who begins his opposition to the slavers and the Confederacy during the Civil War, and the potential drawbacks of his life as he falls in love with a black woman at a time where co-mingling races was, pretty obviously, frowned upon. McConaughey is led by director Gary Ross who has had success in the past, and this is a movie filled with good historical tidbits and good performances. As a standalone film, I wouldn’t recommend it based on cinematic value, only if it’s something you’re interested in.

 

2.5 stars

Free State of Jones (2016)

Genre: War

Director: Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games, Pleasantville)

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keri Russell, Mahershala Ali, and Jacob Lofland

RT Score: 47%

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