The Survivalist (2015)

Rating: C+

Dir: Stephen Fingleton
Star: Martin McCann, Mia Goth, Olwen Fouéré

While dating back several years, almost to the beginning of her career, this is further evidence for my ongoing hypothesis: Just Say No to Mia Goth. It seems that in every movie, anybody who forms a relationship with her character, ends up… Well, to avoid spoilers here, let’s just say, the worse for wear. Pearl. Infinity Pool. And now this: it’s definitely a theme. Mind you, in this case more or less everyone is the worse for wear. Some kind of apocalypse – perhaps linked to a collapse in oil production – had led to massive depopulation, with the survivors eking out a bare existence on the edge. One such is The Survivalist (McCann), who has a small allotment, hidden deep in the forest.

He used to live there with his brother, until… something happened. Now he’s alone, and the solitude is beginning to prey on his mind. One day, two women show up: Kathryn (Fouéré) and her daughter, Milja (Goth). They offer to trade for food: the payment ends up being Milja. The temporary arrangement ends up becoming long-term, though there are real questions as to whether the allotment can produce enough food to sustain the three of them. Kathryn and Milja have a plan to deal with that situation. The Survivalist isn’t going to like it much. However, Milja may not be quite the pliant accomplice to her mother, which she initially appears to be. There are outside threats, too, in the shape of other, marauding survivors.

This is almost the anti-Tarantino, in that everyone here almost seems to have forgotten how to talk. It’s over 17 minutes in before a single syllable is uttered and there are only 625 words said in the entire movie – so, exactly one hundred more than are in this review. [In case you’re wondering, I downloaded the subs, cut out lines for the hearing impaired – mostly “grunting” and “heavy breathing” – and pasted it into Job done.] Sometimes this terseness works, sometimes it doesn’t. The early going felt like we were watching an episode of Alone, where the contestant had forgotten the need to emote into his camera about missing his wife, child or guinea-pig. It’s an expanded version of a short film by Fingleton, Magpie, also starring McCann and Goth: I suspect he didn’t add any lines, upping it to feature length.

Once Milja and Kathryn turn up, there is some dramatic tension. It’s still slow, though the grinding nature of this post-apocalypse feels plausible. The external element, in the shape of the raiders, feels underwhelming: one time, they apparently just stop because they can’t get into the Survivalist’s ramshackle cabin. Very Low Energy!!! The mother/daughter relationship feels off too, perhaps due to the huge apparent age difference. In realty it’s not that vast, but between Fouéré’s silver hair and Goth looking about 12 (which makes her topless scenes uncomfortable), it seems a lot. The tone is such it’s very clear this won’t end well, even if the presence of Mia isn’t a giveaway. All I’ll say is: was that Goth girlfriend worth it, Survivalist? Was it worth it?