Tag Archives: Drama

Never the Same Again: A Review of The Cured

Film poster for The Cured. There are three characters on the poster. Two are former zombies, and one is the sister-in-law of one of them.Content warning: Blood, violence, the death of a child, mental illness, and trauma. I will be mentioning these topics in my review.

The Cured is a 2017 Irish horror drama about former zombies being reintegrated into society after being cured of their disease.

While there are some violent scenes in it, this film is much more about how society stitches itself back together after a pandemic has ripped everything apart.

In short, this wasn’t about watching characters get hurt. It was about how everyone dealt with the traumatic aftermath of this sort of event several years after order was restored and everyone went back to work and school.

I’ve never seen a zombie film focus on this part of that story arc before. It was so unique that I had to watch this despite rarely being into zombies or post-apocalyptic fiction these days.

The character list is quite small this time because the vast majority of the scenes centred on this one family and how they coped.

Characters

Sam Keeley (right) as Senan Browne
Sam Keeley (right) as Senan Browne

Senan Browne was a former zombie who was cured. He was deeply traumatized by his experiences and struggled to find any sense of normality even after he was deemed to no longer be a threat to society.

After his release from the treatment centre, he was sent to live with his sister-in-law, Abbie, and young nephew, Cillian, who can be partially seen in Senan’s arms in the above photo.

Senan’s social worker assigned him to work as a porter at the same treatment centre that cured him. He was such a quiet, withdrawn man that I really wondered how he’d respond to this work environment.

Ellen Page as Abbie
Ellen Page as Abbie (Abigail) Reynolds

 

Abbie was Senan’s sister-in-law. Cillian is her son. Her husband, Luke, died early on in the zombie outbreak, so she raised her son alone in a violent and unpredictable environment.

She was just as traumatized as her brother-in-law, but she expressed it in completely different ways. Abbie was hyper-aware of everything going on around her and insisted on always knowing where her loved ones were for obvious reasons.

My Review

This is one of those rare zombie films that I’d wholeheartedly recommend to people who hate that genre. The zombies could easily have been substituted for real-world issues like pandemics or war and come to almost the same conclusion. It was the characters’ reactions to them that pushed the plot forward in the vast majority of cases.

Actually living through a zombie attack would be traumatizing for anyone, and the plot did an excellent job of showing how the two main characters reacted both in the moment and several years later when they were safe and together again.  Both of them showed clear signs of mental illness as a result of these experiences, including flashbacks, panic attacks, guilt, rage, anxiety, mood swings, serious trouble focusing, and avoidance of things that reminded them of those terrible days. All of these scenes were handled sensitively.

Senan’s experiences had been unique ones. Without giving too much information away, life for people in his position was extremely difficult. Not only did he have to deal with prejudice and mistreatment from people who’d survived the initial outbreak without being turned, he also had to come to terms with what he’d done while he was a zombie. The social commentary on how we treat people whose choices have disgusted and terrified us was filled with food for thought. It almost reminded me of how some folks responded to people who had AIDS in the 1980s or to people who abuse drugs in the present day.

It would have been nice to see more time spent on the backstories of Abbie and of the doctor who cured Senan. Both of these women gave small hints about their experiences during the zombiepocalypse, but there was so much more room there for development. Yes, Senan had a unique tale to tell, but so did a woman who kept her baby alive for four years as a single parent in such a harrowing environment as well as a doctor who bravely treated and eventually cured many of the zombies while paying a terrible price for her courage.

I liked the way this film explored how Senan’s life  had been forever altered by their pasts. Finally having a cure is by no means the same as an outbreak never occurring at all. While he had found a new sense of normalcy, he’d never be able to forget the events that set his story into motion in the first place.

I’d recommend The Cured to anyone who likes dramas.

(If you decide to watch the trailer below before watching this film, do keep in mind that it gives away some big plot twists. Someday I should write a post about why trailers shouldn’t do that!)

The Cured is available on Netflix.

Dangerous Voyage: A Review of Europa Report

Film poster for Europa Report. Image on poster shows an astronaut standing on an icy plain in Europa while Jupiter looms overhead.Content warning: Found footage and mental illness. I will be discussing these things later on in this post.

Europa Report is a 2013 science fiction film about an international group of astronauts who are sent on an expedition to Jupiter’s fourth largest moon, Europa, to see if they can find any evidence of life there.

This story expects its audience to already know the basics of how space exploration works and what astronauts would realistically hope to accomplish on a mission like this one.

While the plot definitely does meander into places that are beyond the scope of our current understanding of other parts of our solar system, I classified it as hard science fiction and would suggest spending some time reading about real-life spaceflights and NASA’s tentative plans to explore Europa before watching this film to anyone who doesn’t already have a basic understanding of these things already for reasons I’ll explain in my review below. (Both of those links are nonfiction and 100% spoiler-free).

I should note that this was shot as found footage, so there is shaky camera work in a few places. This is a technique that has made me a little nauseated when it happened in other films. While it didn’t bother me in this one, I still thought it would be best to make note of it for anyone who has a more sensitive stomach.

Characters

Daniel Wu (left) as William Xu
Captain Daniel Wu (left) as William Xu. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

 

Captain Wu was the level-headed leader of this crew who was excited to see Europa regardless of what they discovered there.

 

Anamaria Marinca as Rosa Dasque
Anamaria Marinca as Rosa Dasque

 

Rosa was the pilot and archivist. A risk taker at times, she signed up for this mission because she wanted to go “faster and farther than anyone else before.”

 

Michael Nyqvist as Andrei Blok
Michael Nyqvist as Andrei Blok

 

Andrei was the chief engineer. He was highly skilled at his job but found the living accommodations on the Europa One to be less than ideal, especially once he began to deal with his emotional reaction to something difficult that happened earlier on in the mission. My fan theory was that he was a deeply introverted man who struggled to find enough peace and quiet in such tight living quarters even before that experience occurred.

 

Karolina Wydra as Katya Petrovna
Karolina Wydra as Katya Petrovna

 

Katya was the science officer. Her background was in marine biology and oceanography, but she was ironically scared of flying when she signed up for this mission. She was adventurous and yearned to fulfill the crew’s mission and discover life on Europa.

 

Sharlto Copley as James Corrigan
Sharlto Copley as James Corrigan

 

James was the engineer. He’d left behind a wife and young son to go on this mission and often spoke of how much he missed them.

Christian Camargo as Daniel Luxembourg
Christian Camargo as Daniel Luxembourg. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

 

Daniel was the chief science officer. His friendship with James provided a few lighthearted moments in an otherwise serious tale.

My Review

Don’t let the introduction to this post deter you from giving this film a try if you’re unfamiliar with the topics it covers. While it does expect the audience to come with some prior knowledge of spacecrafts and space travel, the storyline was well written and fascinating.

“The Europa One Mission was the first attempt to send men and women into deep space. For over six months the world watched every moment.”

All of the characters had spent years gaining the education and experience necessary to be eligible for this sort of history-making mission. Since this was a plot-driven story, there wasn’t a great deal of time spent exploring their backstories. I did learn enough about them to become emotionally attached, though.

As mentioned in the content warning and character description, there is a subplot about Andrei’s struggles with his mental health. All of the astronauts had been taught about the dangers that this mission could pose to their mental health, from the effects of Zero G to the natural consequences of living in relative isolation for so long. I appreciated the way the filmmakers handled this topic.

While I can’t discuss the incident that contributed to this character developing a mental illness without giving away spoilers, it was handled sensitively. There was nothing salacious about it, and it fit into the storyline perfectly. Honestly, I could very well have had the same response if I’d been in his shoes. This is something I’d be happy to discuss in more detail privately with anyone  who asks for it.

The camaraderie between the six astronauts was well documented and provided a nice contrast to all of the scenes that went into detail about the various scientific studies they were conducting and the many things they needed to do to keep their ship in good shape.

Katya exploring Europa
Katya exploring Europa. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Some of the most exciting scenes were obviously the ones that showed what happened after the astronauts arrived on Europa.

They had a long list of samples they wanted to take from the ice and sea beneath the ice.

What would they find there? How would the readings of this moon taken from Earth compare to what it was actually like?

I had so many questions about this part of their journey, so I was thrilled to see what happened after they arrived and began analyzing everything. Yes, there were certain acronyms and references mentioned during this portion that weren’t explained to the audience. Some of them could be figured out from context clues. Others might require searching online for viewers who aren’t already familiar with this stuff.

Honestly, I think doing a little of research is well worth figuring out exactly what characters are talking about when they’re testing a sample of water or discussing how to fix a damaged portion of their vessel. While that may make this film a little less accessible to the average viewer than it would otherwise be, I thought writing it that way was the right choice. Actual astronauts wouldn’t pause to explain every technical term they used, after all!

To share one final note, the plot was shared out of chronological order in certain scenes. Everything you need to know is included if you pay attention, and the reasons for filming it this way will become clear if you stick with it.

This was something I had a wonderful time watching. I highly recommend it to anyone who is willing to put a little effort into piecing everything together.

Europa Report is available on Apple TV.

Hopeful Science Fiction: Astraea

Last June I blogged about my desire to read more hopeful science fiction. Since then I’ve talked about Woman on the Edge of TimeThe Lovely Bones and Semiosis. Today I’m back with another recommendation for hopeful sci-fi, and this time it’s a film! 

If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure like to hear them. Leave a comment below or send me message about it on Twitter.

Astraea

Film poster for Astraea. Image on poster is drawing of main character that also doubles as a map. Astraea is a 2016 film that is set in a slightly futuristic version of what used to be the United States. The main character, Astraea, is a young girl living in what’s left of human society after an epidemic killed off a huge percentage of the population. She’s convinced that their brother and grandmother are still alive, and tries to convince her older half-brother, Matthew, to travel around North America in search of them.

Unlike a lot of post-apocalyptic societies, this one is pretty peaceful world. The human population is so small that it’s rare to run across another person in general, much less one who might have bad intentions.

I’ve reviewed several science fiction and fantasy movies for this site so far. This is the first truly hopeful one I’ve come across, so I thought I’d add it to the Hopeful Science Fiction reading (and now watching) list instead of writing a regular review for it.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find photos of all of the characters like I normally do. This was an Indie film, so I’m guessing their fan base wasn’t large enough for them to have the resources or time to commit to such a thing.  I was able to find photos of the two main characters, though, which is the most important thing.

Nerea Duhart as Astraea

Astraea is the protagonist, a teenage girl who may or may not have telepathic abilities. By the time she and her brother begin travelling to find their parents, there are very few living people left in North America. They spend the majority of their time with no company other than each other.

Scotty Crowe (left) as Matthew

Matthew is Astraea’s older brother. He is fiercely protective of his little sister. While he has doubts about whether or not their journey to find possible surviving relatives is a smart idea, he’s determined to travel with her and keep both of them safe.

Dan O’Brien as James

James is one of the few survivors of this plague that Astraea and Matthew met while travelling.After a tense misunderstanding during their first meeting, James and his wife, Callie, agree to give Astraea and Matthew food and shelter over the winter.

There Is Goodness In Our World

The first thing that struck me about this film was how ordinary life was for the characters despite the fact that they were technically living in a post-apocalyptic world. Their days were filled with going on food runs at the nearest grocery store, doing the occasional bit of hunting, keeping the fireplace burning, and finding ways to amuse themselves when those basic chores were finished. Their story happened during the winter, so their to-do lists were much shorter than they would be if the characters also needed to plant a garden or preserve food.

Honestly, I actually found the storytelling a little slow at times. It felt a lot like how real life unfolds. Most days are fairly ordinary and peaceful. Occasionally, someone might get into an accident, have an argument, or need medical treatment, but that is by the exception to the rule and it is always punctuated by other people doing everything they can to help.

This isn’t to say that the characters lived in perfect harmony all of the time. They had disagreements like any group of people living together are bound to do, but that was as far as the conflict went. Unlike violent shows like The Walking Dead, there were no roving bands of humans waiting to hurt the innocent folks they met on the road. The survivors were simply trying to stay alive through the winter.

Speaking of innocence, I was pleasantly surprised by how well all of the adults in Astraea’s life were able to protect her. She was seen as the child she was, and there was always someone around to make sure she had a nutritious meal to eat and a safe place to sleep. That isn’t common in this genre at all, and I found it refreshing. It wasn’t until I’d finished the scene that I looked up her name and realized that it is also the name of the Greek goddess of innocence. I’m sure the filmmakers did that on purpose. It was a wonderful reference that I’m glad I took the time to google.

Grief and Hope

All of the characters in this story lost people they loved in and shortly after the epidemic, so there were references to their deaths sprinkled in with the happier scenes. I appreciated the fact that the storytellers mixed these emotions together. There is hope after grief. You can miss someone who died recently or a long time ago and still find a reason to believe that tomorrow will be a brighter day.

In my quest to find hopeful science fiction, I keep circling back to stories that acknowledge the pain people experience during the course of a lifetime. There’s something immensely appealing to me about this sturdy kind of hope that thrives in difficult circumstances.

If you feel the same way, I highly recommend checking out this film.

 

Astraea is available on iTunes and Amazon Prime Video.