• Audrey Walter

Vivarium: Alien Nuclear Family

The Life of Forced Normalcy

Vivarium is a 2019 film directed by Lorcan Finnegan and is strangely labeled as a comedy. I might’ve laughed a couple of times because of awkward moments but to call this movie a comedy is quite odd.

A dark comedy that parallels the absurdity of nuclear family expectations? I guess that makes more sense. I don’t know why this movie intrigued me, but I had some sort of divine calling toward it, so I figured I should give it a go. I wasn’t disappointed or pleasantly surprised.

It was just...meh.

The movie begins with Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) and Gemma (Imogen Poots), a young couple, searching to find their first home. But before that, the movie actually begins with a bird’s nest. A large baby cuckoo pushes the two baby birds out of the nest. This scene comes into play later on.

Anyway, Tom and Gemma are looking for a house.

They go to this realtor that works for Yonder Homes. The realtor’s name is Martin and he’s extremely odd. As they go look at homes, the couple realizes all the houses look identical to one another. When they look through house number nine, Martin seems to disappear into thin air. The couple then realizes that they are stuck in this suburban nightmare.

They drive in circles with no luck. Everything in this suburban area reminded me of Edward Scissorhands. The neighborhood is so pastel and perfectly unsettling. Perfect for creating an unnerving atmosphere!

Well, that’s the main plot of the movie except with an added twist: they can leave the neighborhood once they raise a child. This “child” shows up in a cardboard box along with food for the family to survive.

I realized right away that this movie was trying to create some kind of allegorical message on the nuclear family. Society expects couples to get married, have children, and be the perfect family until they die and their children move on without them.

Viewers will be able to see bits and pieces of the family falling apart. Some might even relate to the struggles Gemma and Tom go through with this mysterious child.

The mother must raise the child while the dad slowly kills himself by working long hours and not paying much attention to his family anymore. And the child mirrors the parents completely, good or bad. I loved that aspect of the movie and I felt they should’ve played off that more. I love this new trend of challenging the norm or bringing up difficult topics through the medium of film.

Parasite does this very well, showing the striking differences between the rich and the poor with exceptional symbolism. But Vivarium had to strike the weird factor up a notch. Yes, there are aliens. No, they aren’t explained at all. I understood that these aliens want humans to raise their young, but why? There’s no rhyme or reason to it. Just for fun? For the experience?

Gemma and Tom with their new alien child.

The only thing I did like about the aliens was the name “Martin.” It’s like “martian.” Isn’t that clever?

And remember the bird’s nest I brought up at the beginning? That big cuckoo pushing the little birds out is a comparison to a grown child not needing their feeble parents anymore. Or could it be aliens pushing aside the weak human race? It could go either way.

This is a fun and interesting little film, but it’s nothing special. The acting was okay and the script was fine. But it could’ve been improved upon. This movie would’ve been much better if it focused more on the seriousness of the nuclear family.

Thankfully, the film wasn’t filled with pretentious indie jargon that lasted for 2+ hours. It was a nice, humble 1 hour and 37 minutes long. The set design was gorgeous and the worldbuilding was quite cool. But the worst thing about this film is something I must bring up…

The child’s voice. When the baby grows up into a child, its voice is pitched in some way that makes the boy sound unnatural. I figured this was just an alien thing, but his teenage form sounds completely normal. I didn’t understand the need for the kid to have such a strange tone. It’s so off-putting and funny in a bad way. It was frankly annoying.

My Verdict?

But I digress, this movie wasn’t awful, yet it wasn’t good. It was painfully average. I wouldn’t watch it again nor would I recommend it to a friend. The film makes you think, but not for long. I’m just glad it wasn’t pretentious.

I give Vivarium a 6/10.

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