A Toronto film fest favorite for decades, Canadian filmmaker Patricia Rozema wrote and directed Into the Forest from the book by Jean Hegland. It stars Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood.
In the (very) near future, the fall of contemporary civilization, in what seems like a global power failure, puts two sisters, living in the forest, into a survival scheme.
Into the Forest brings Rozema to fulfill her usual interest in characterization and drama. She handles the material pretty successfully on these aspects. Her feminist tale of survival and redemption is well served by the deliberate slow pacing that still offers rhythm thanks to a great editing job by Matthew Hannam (Enemy, Antiviral) who sure knows how to create ellipsis. Cinematographer Daniel Grant beautiful imagery and German composer Max Richter (Waltz with Bashir) dramatic takes provide the tone, even if the composer is over doing at times.
The director covers some known territories for such stories (there is outside threats for example) but the focus remains on the two female characters who are mostly alone throughout the events. If Ellen Page is not going to deceive her fans, Evan Rachel Wood is doing the top performance here. She is moving when time comes and very physical (she plays a contemporary dancer). The new world order creating a forced (re)volution regarding the bounds linking the two sisters is convincing because the actresses have chemistry.
Into the Forest is not completely successful in all fields (and it may leave the disaster- zombie movie lovers unsatisfied). If we can accept the lack of initial explanation on what happened, it is highly improbable, when they meet people, that everyone would talk so little about what is going on even if not properly informed. We don’t always feel the state of panic that would prevail with such scenarios (obviously due to budget limitations), but we rather see some of the results. On the other hand, the tension in some key scenes is well built. Also, after several months, the sisters still look a bit too clean and healthy, while the house that seems strongly built falls apart rapidly. Apparently the novel’s main elements are here while some, more shocking, are left out or softened a little.
Ultimately, Patricia Rozema’s take on the subject (of the end of civilization as we know it) works dramatically because it is very personal and intimate.