Z for Zachariah

When you think post-apocalyptic movies, you probably think about action. You think zombies, or destruction. You probably don’t conjure up water wheels, a turkey dinner, and romance. But that’s what you get with Z for Zachariah. Directed by Craig Zobel (Compliance), the film is almost an anti-post-apocalyptic movie as it’s much more concerned with human relationships than anything else going out around them. With a cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie and Chris Pine, that’s both a blessing and a curse. Read more of our Z for Zachariah review below.

As Z for Zachariah begins we meet Ann (Robbie), a self-sufficient survivor of some kind of catastrophic nuclear event. We don’t know what happened, we just know pretty much everyone is gone. Soon she meets John (Ejiofor) and after nursing him back to health, the two become friends. Maybe more. Then, once John and Ann have a pretty good thing going, Caleb (Pine) finds his way to their home. Immediately, the third person creates a new dynamic and tension in the group.

The most interesting thing about that set up is how it goes against type for a movie in this setting. Usually, people fear and attack each other for survival. Here, they’re compassionate. They don’t want much, just companionship, and to begin to rebuild the lives they lost. It’s interesting to watch them slowly reach those goals because they’re very simple, logical and kind of unexpected in this setting.

Everything about Z for Zachariah is subtle. There’s dialogue, and sometimes it’s direct, but the characters are always developing in the subtext. John may tell Ann about his feelings for Caleb, but we don’t know how honest he’s being. Caleb may look like he’s trustworthy, but we never know for sure. And then everything about the world outside the valley where the story is set is a mystery.

Ejiofor, Robbie and Pine revel in these big emotional moments wrapped in small packages. Each is always working on several different levels and that makes for very tense, complex interactions. The film gets especially interesting once all three of them are together – something that takes a good half of the movie to happen. Once it does, the jealousy between the men, and the uncertainty that arouses in Ann, starts bubbling to the forefront.

As the film goes on, however, the slow pace and lack of action do become a little worrisome. I often felt my mind wandering as so little was actually going on up on screen. The relationships are interesting but the lack of action surrounding them drags the already quiet, subtle movie down considerably.

Z for Zachariah is a very well-made and well-acted movie. However, all of that almost feels wasted on a script by Nissar Modi that tries too hard to be ambiguous and introspective. It could have used just few more strands of meat on the bone.

/Film rating: 6.5 out of 10

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About the Author

Germain graduated NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Cinema Studies program in 2002 and won back to back First Place awards for film criticism from the New York State Associated Press in 2006 and 2007.

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