“What a fate.”
Probably the most ominous line in Stephen Fingelton’s debut The Survivalist is the one that explains the film the best. And make no mistake, being the most ominous line in this movie is no easy feat. A bleak and immovable film, The Survivalist never once cracks a smile or allows for any illusions of joy to set in, only resigning itself to its place in the world, much like its characters. What a fate, indeed.
After the inevitable economic collapse to come in our near future, The Survivalist follows an unnamed man (Martin McCann) who has made a good life for himself, farming and keeping himself going. Like The Martian, but instead of the kinda-gross use of poop as fertilizer, he masturbates into plants to fertilize them. I never thought I’d say this, but I miss the days when Matt Damon dug through dung for a good crop.
This man’s life is upended on the arrival of a young woman (Mia Goth) and an older woman (Olwen Fouéré) whose intentions are unclear. The majority of the film follows these three characters attempting to co-exist for the brief time they have together as the outside world and the past of the survivalist comes for them.
Like so many of these post-apocalyptic movies, the film is best when it’s being vague and odd. The first 17 minutes of The Survivalist go by without as much as a grunt, only the music-less noise of the world to keep us company, and it’s absolutely mesmerizing, one of the best chunks of filmmaking I’ve seen this year. So when I say the rest of the film is a disappointment, I’m not saying it’s bad, this is a very tightly wound and entertainingly immersive film, it just never reaches the giddy heights of its overture.
Unflinching in its grossness and bluntness, as the film is ripe with nasty gore and copious nudity, The Survivalist is a dastardly bleak film, somewhere along the lines of a more coherent No Country for Old Men. We are getting more accustomed to the idea of the post-apocalyptic film taking the place of the western, and The Survivalist is a perfect example of this. If it only kept away from some of the more obnoxious and morally clean tropes of the western as the film progresses, we’d have a perfect film, but as it is, The Survivalist is a very special film, and should be a wonderful calling card for Fingleton to demand to make whatever project he wants to make next, because if this is his first outing, this is a man with talent beyond belief.
The Survivalist gets 8/10 Semen-Stained Foliages