The Survivalist (18)

Directed by Stephen Fingleton
Picturehouse, Liverpool
12th - 18th February 2016

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

First-time feature filmmaker Stephen Fingleton comes to the fore with this highly unusual movie, in which global catastrophe has taken place, for example, fossil fuels have been exhausted, which has led to a complete breakdown of society as we knew it, and it is every man and woman for themselves.

The focus of this post-apocalyptic world falls on a nameless protagonist - the man with no name - played by Martin McCann, who is holed up deep inside a Northern Irish forest living in a shack and surviving on homegrown crops.

He seems apparently safe from trespassers and marauders - he has set many mantraps in case anyone tries to invade his space.

But out of the blue two women appear, making him very, very uneasy about their presence. One is a prematurely white-haired mother, Kathryn (Olwen Fouere), and her daughter Milja (Mia Goth), who plead with him to supply them with food and accommodation inside his small dwelling.

After debating within himself whether he should do so, he finally agrees to help them, somewhat assisted by Milja's willingness to have sex with him, openly encouraged by her mother, who occupies another room when they do so.

But there is nothing straightforward about this situation. As the title states this is a world about survival at whatever cost. This proves even more stark in the closing stages.

The charismatic Olwen Fouere, a noted theatre actress, holds the attention throughout, particularly in not knowing what is going through her devious, scheming mind.

To add to the detached nature of the film from 'real life', dialogue between the characters is used only sparingly and no music is featured, except for the occasional snatch of an harmonica played by the nameless one.

The tight framing of his shots by cinematographer Damien Elliot, and many very close-up views of people's faces adds to the feeling of disconnection.

One critic compared it to Andrie Tarkovsky's masterpiece Stalker. I would not agree with that view but nevertheless The Survivalist is highly impressive.

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