Z For Zachariah: Love and lust in a time of apocalypse

(image via Hitfix)
(image via Hitfix)


In the wake of a nuclear war, a young woman survives on her own, fearing she may actually be the proverbial last woman on earth, until she discovers the most astonishing sight of her life: another human being. A distraught scientist, he’s nearly been driven mad by radiation exposure and his desperate search for others. A fragile, imperative strand of trust connects them. But when a stranger enters the valley, their precarious bond begins to unravel. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

You could be forgiven for thinking that humanity as a whole is really jonesing for the world to end, and to end very soon.

Our current fascination, some might say obsession, with zombie apocalypses, virulent epidemics, climatic disasters, alien invasions and nuclear annihilation might suggest a hankering for the civilisation’s quick and dramaticallu-potent demise.

Lest you think that this is a recent thing, you may want to harken back to the Biblical book of Revelation, or the ancient Egyptians obsession with world-ending vampiric pestilence or Ragnarök, the idea that a great battle will end with the submersion of the world in water.

Or if you don’t want to venture too far back, you could start with Z For Zachariah, a posthumously-published novel by the family of Robert C. O’Brien (real name Robert Leslie Conly), which focused on one young girl alone in a verdant valley, the last outpost of the world that once was.

Cocooned in this perfect world within a ruined world, religious Ann is joined by a mysterious radiation-suited stranger, an atheist named Loomis, and all looks well, and a whole lot less lonelier, until things go pear-shaped as is the way of apocalyptic things.


In the film version of the book, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, she is joined by not one but two other people, complicating things even further for the young survivor, and amping up the tension still further.
Far more than a simple love triangle, it is an exploration of what happens when humanity, even at the end of the world when the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been, can’t quite shake off the lesser angels of its nature.
While most reviewers have noted, including Rodrigo Perez of The Playlist that it is not a perfect movie:
“Easily Zobel’s most accomplished work with a self-assured simplicity that marks every frame, Z For Zachariah is nevertheless still uneven. Its craft can be impressive: Zobel’s film possesses a searing, slow burn tone that’s beautifully controlled. The movie is admirably patient and gives breathing room and space for these relationships to bloom believably and organically. But the build to a climax is far too slow and with little emotional payoff.”
It nevertheless looks intriguing for me to give it a go, emotionally-uncertain payoffs be damned.
After all, the world has ended – you can’t expect perfection can you?
OK well maybe you can with a film about the end of the world, but there looks to be enough going for Z For Zachariah to at least see what happens when humanity’s fate rests on the three last people left on Earth.
Z For Zachariah, which premiered at Sundance in January 2015, opens in USA on 21 August.



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