Some movies get a lot of attention at film festivals, and it’s hard to understand why based on the limited information available at the time, and when Z for Zachariah had everyone talking at Sundance, it was tricky for some to figure out what could cause so much buzz. Of course, those familiar with the popular novel by Robert C. O’Brien were just relieved that people were saying good things about it, and some people probably just played along with the popularity of anything with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chris Pine, and Margot Robbie. But, since you only know that the movie kicks off with Robbie fearing that she is the last person alive, only to discover, eventually, two other men, it’s somewhat difficult to find the driving forces behind all the hype. This is especially true when you hear that none of them exactly “do” anything, except exist at each other.
Well, we finally have a trailer to offer up some more clues, and as the two male leads are apparently heatedly vying for the attention of the only woman on Earth, and are perhaps both a bit loony, it all makes a lot more sense. I’m not absolutely convinced by Pine, based only on his limited appearance in the trailer, but judging by Ejiofor’s past work, this could be one of the year’s best just off watching him work.
In the not-distant future, a disastrous radioactive event has obliterated most of civilization. Yet somewhere deep in the American South is a valley that remains untouched; evidence of a micro-climate or some other miracle. A young farm girl, Ann Burden (Margot Robbie), is grittily surviving on her own in this valley, fearing she may actually be the proverbial last woman on earth. Then, she discovers the most astonishing sight of her life: another human being.
John Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor) arrives in the valley a cipher; a distraught scientist nearly driven mad by radiation exposure and his desperate search for others. He and Ann share little in common beyond survival. Even so, as Ann nurses Loomis back to health, they build a fragile, imperative strand of trust across the gulf between them – finding solace amidst the eerie reality of their new lives. With all the time in the world, they even dare to imagine forging a future – for themselves, for humanity. But when a stranger (Chris Pine) enters the valley, their precarious bond begins to unravel. Now, all three must grapple with an unstable situation – one of secrets, suspicions and mortal threats.
Director Craig Zobel (Compliance) takes this arresting concept and puts a microscope on the trio at its center – raising provocative questions about human relationships, human aspiration and all the things inside us, both beautiful and terrifying, that endure when everything else ends. With a three-person cast and shot in remote New Zealand, the film re-envisions the bleak, dense, technological end-of-the world epic as a lush, lyrical, emotional portrait of three people stripped down to their most fundamental wonders and darkest flaws.
Z FOR ZACHARIAH is inspired by the novel of the same name by Robert C. O’Brien, published posthumously in 1974, and was created by Pall Grimsson and adapted for the screen by Nissar Modi (Breaking At The Edge). The producers are Sophia Lin, Tobey Maguire, Skuli Malmquist, Matthew Plouffe, Sigurjon Siighvatsson and Thor Sigurjonsson. The executive producers are Steve Bannatyne, Claudia Bluemhuber, Bill Johnson, Jim Seibel and Robbie J. Williams. Zobel’s behind-the-scenes team includes cinematographer Tim Orr (Manglehorn, Joe), production designer Matthew Munn (“Girls,”Compliance), costume designer Bob Buck (The Hobbit series), editor Jane Rizzo (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Compliance) and composer Heather McIntosh (Compliance.)