Into the Forest (2015)

  • Time: 101 min
  • Genre: Drama | Sci-Fi
  • Director: Patricia Rozema
  • Cast: Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella


After a massive power outage, two sisters learn to survive on their own in their isolated woodland home.

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  • The beginning of the end arrives with a whisper not a bang in Patricia Rozema’s film adaptation of Jean Hegland’s 1996 novel Into the Forest, which centers around two sisters’ struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic world.

    Sisters Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) and Nell (Ellen Page) live with their father (Callum Keith Rennie) in a glass house secluded somewhere in the woods of northern California. It’s made clear that they’ve weathered a series of blackouts before, but the latest power outage proves a far more permanent one. At first, the girls treat it as a temporary inconvenience. Eva, already concerned that she’s aging out of her prime, is frustrated that she must practice for her dance audition with only a metronome for musical accompaniment. Nell, meanwhile, is annoyed that she can’t use her computer to study for her SATs, scoffing to her father that books are just too out of date (“Things change every day.”). They manage a trip into town for gas and some more supplies but, upon their return home, their father decides that it’s safer to stay where they are and wait out the outage.

    A freak accident leaves the sisters alone with one another. Days pass, power remains unrestored and they cling to their daily activities, practicing for an audition that will never come to pass, studying for an exam that will never be taken. Eva, who appeared the more mature-minded of the two sisters, begins to crumble, pleading with her younger sister to use the generator so they can play some music, maybe even watch home videos of happier times. Nell wants to conserve the energy they have, who knows when they may truly need it? The sisters relationship is further tested by the appearance of Eli (Max Minghella), Nell’s boyfriend who has walked many a mile to deflower Nell and convince her to go East with him where it’s rumoured life has returned.

    One of the main concerns of Hegland’s story is technology’s distancing effect. The apocalypse, whose cause is never explained, is a means of solidifying the sometimes frayed bond between Eva and Nell. The sisterhood is expressed as an all-powerful union – they may be threatened by forces both external and internal, but these are not helpless young women. Rozema doesn’t really force the feminist angle nor does she emphasise how nature itself is a tangible third character. It’s a detriment to the film, which never fully develops into something poetic and interesting.

    Wood and Page deliver excellent portrayals and are wholly believable as sisters, but not even their thoughtful efforts can prevent the film from being mired in its own inertia.

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