What Still Remains

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

What Still Remains
"Not a great deal happens in this story of survivalism and primitive conflicts that we haven't seen dozens of times before, but by sticking with Anna's perspective, writer/director Josh Mendoza makes it all feel very different."

No matter how one wraps them up, post-Apocalyptic scenarios will never quite hold the same romantic appeal for women as they do for straight, able-bodied men. If Mad Max: Fury Road didn't make it clear enough, you can see it in the blasted female-only settlements on the fringes of other genre stories, in the stragglers who risk life and limb by disguise themselves as men to collect supplies in A Boy And His Dog. Women know what happens when the rule of law breaks down, and it leaves them little room for trust or pity.

The woman in the log cabin held on, for a long time, to hopes of a better life for her daughter Anna (Lulu Antariksa). But lying on her deathbed and with her son recently taken by savages, she knew there was nothing more she could do. The arrival of handsome and apparently peaceful stranger Peter (Colin O'Donoghue) shortly after her passing seems to offer Anna some hope after all. He invites her to travel with him to his village, which has been fortified against the 'changed' (basically zombies) and human marauders; and as she wants to get away from a place that now holds only sorrow, she agrees. But when they get there, something about the warm welcome she receives makes her distinctly uncomfortable. Everyone assumes that she will stay, and that she will be Peter's woman. He may have saved her life, but she didn't understand it was conditional.

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Not a great deal happens in this story of survivalism and primitive conflicts that we haven't seen dozens of times before, but by sticking with Anna's perspective, writer/director Josh Mendoza makes it all feel very different. Having grown up with a mother who taught her to value herself, Anna isn't content with surrendering herself indefinitely to a man - or possibly more than one - purely on the basis that if she complies he won't treat her violently. The threat of rape and murder outside the barricades doesn't reduce her horror at what happens within - she'd rather take her chances in order to forge her own path.

Dissecting the right wing myth of a handful of men starting all over again and everybody being grateful for it, What Still Remains also implicates certain religious factions by having its village held together by a form of Evangelical Christianity - modified, of course, to make sense of the world as it has become. It's certainly a pertinent message for our times and whatever one's politics, one cannot but note that this take on the subject hasn't had its due in cinema. Though its rarity makes it stand out, it doesn't overwhelm the story. Antariksa is a competent lead and just about holds the audience through the slower sections, whilst O'Donoghue is very effective as a man who exploits his social position without ever apparently having analysed it, bullying Anna without quite understanding where he's going wrong.

Interesting snippets of information that contribute to filling in the background of the village have real story potential, so it's a shame that the film ultimately opts for a safe ending, falling back into post-Apocalypse movie routine. Nevertheless, there's a bold attempt here to do something different, and that deserves praise.

Reviewed on: 06 Aug 2018
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A young woman tries to survive in a post-Apocalyptic world.

Director: Josh Mendoza

Writer: Josh Mendoza

Starring: Lulu Antariksa, Colin O'Donoghue, Mimi Rogers, Dohn Norwood, Jeff Kober, Peter O'Brien

Year: 2018

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: US

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