Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella, Callum Keith Rennie, Michael Eklund
Written by: Patricia Rozema, based on a novel by Jean Hegland
Directed by: Patricia Rozema
MPAA Rating: R for a scene of violence involving rape, language and some sexuality/nudity
Running Time: 101
Date: 07/22/2016

Into the Forest (2016)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Unlike any other post-apocalyptic movie ever made, this sisterly drama has no aliens, chases, or fights. It's lushly beautiful, but heavy and soft; yet its soapy quality may appeal to some audiences.

Some time in the future, two sisters, Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood), live with their father (Callum Keith Rennie) in a remote house in the woods. Nell is studying for her SAT test and Eva is preparing for a dance audition, when — with no explanation — the power suddenly goes out.

They make do, but when the power doesn't come back on for several days, they realize they must start to prepare for the worst. They must venture into town for supplies and ration their gas. After a tragic accident, Nell and Eva must go it alone. As the outage continues on for months, the girls learn to grow and hunt their own food, but must also deal with tough choices, brutal violence, as well as unexpected gifts.

Director Patricia Rozema (Mansfield Park, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl) emphasizes the beauties of the outdoors, of living organically off the land. It's frequently raining, and the foliage always looks breathtaking. Add to that the focus on Nell (Ellen Page) training her mind and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) training her body, and it's a perfect picture of what it means to be a human living on earth.

All this aside, though, Rozema isn't quite so adept at telling her story. The plot turns in Into the Forest, both hopeful and tragic, come in great, thumping chunks. Everything is telegraphed and it rarely flows. Fortunately, both Page and Wood give strong, brave, open performances, finding the strength to carry the film's emotions and ideas from scene to scene; they are the glue between moments.

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