We feel for Emma and Tom, but actually caring about them would yield more dramatic heft, and Finnegan and Shanley don’t give us nearly enough of them together operating as a tandem to either understand or escape their situation. Emma does her thing and Tom does his, and more often than not, never the twain shall meet. And that’s a shame because Eisenberg and especially Poots are so good here, having already shared the screen in both Solitary Man and The Art of Self-Defense.
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The character of The Boy grows increasingly, aggressively annoying rather than evolving into a genuine threat. Compounding the issues, Vivarium unfolds at a glacial pace and poses existential questions it mostly fails to answer. I say mostly because Finnegan absolutely sticks the landing; the final 10 minutes provide legitimate narrative – if not emotional – closure. Oh, and for those who take any interest in Vivarium, Google the meaning of the film’s title.
Vivarium rates as an ambitious near-miss, as Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg reunite (for a third time) to play a young couple who find themselves trapped, Twilight Zone-style, in a surreal suburban community from which there’s apparently no escape… ever. Much like the characters, moviegoers may be wondering, “How will it end? When will it end? What did I do to deserve this?”