This will be an end of the year round up of several offerings currently available on Netflix. They will be mini reviews highlighting some of the programs we have enjoyed lately. In this article we will cover a trio of post apocalyptic offerings; What Still Remains, Bokeh, and of course the obligatory Bird Box. All of these reviews will contain mild spoilers and are best read after viewing. In a nutshell, 2 out of 3 of them are worth watching and the other one isn’t worthless.
What Still Remains
There is a seemingly unending supply of post apocalyptic themed programs available on Netflix, and we’re not complaining! I’m always up for a good “end of the world” scenario. What Still Remains tells the story of Anna (Lulu Antariksa from CW’s Legacies) and how her family trying to survive in the bleak aftermath of some sort of pandemic. Along with wiping out the vast majority of the Earth’s population the plague has somehow sparked a sort of “Holy War” between those who believe the sickness was God’s will and the “Berserkers” who willingly expose themselves to the sickness to cleanse themselves. I know it sounds sort of confusing and unfortunately it isn’t really explained well in the movie either (like why aren’t the Berserkers dying off faster?). After losing the rest of her family to a Berserker attack, Anna is offered the chance to join a new community by a wandering stranger named Peter. Hesitant at first, she opts to slowly trust him and the promise of a better life elsewhere. After some troubles getting to the new community, Peter and Anna arrive and all isn’t what it seems at first. Happily welcomed into the fold, Anna soon discovers that this new group are incestuous zealots who follow their own blend of the Bible and Peter’s new teachings. Promised to Peter as a new wife, Anna resists and is made a prisoner. This is where the movie really breaks down. Both the community’s motive and the Berserker’s drive are muddy and seem to make little sense. Unwilling to accept Anna’s “no” for an answer they opt instead to just execute her…which is odd considering how much trouble they went to just to get her there and her new role as the blacksmith (a highly important duty the community is in need of). Her missing brother even shows up, now a Berserker himself, participates in a triple cross that had me utterly confounded, and ends up dead again (all in less than 10 minutes). I liked the concept and the atmosphere created by Josh Mendoza (writer/director), but it failed to deliver a satisfying and cohesive ending.
The title is taken from the Japanese term meaning; the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens. Sort of fitting for this story of Jenai and Riley, two American tourists exploring out of the way Iceland for a chance to “get away from it all”. You will be happy to know they accomplished that task in spectacular form. During the first night of their trip, a strange light in the distance awakens Jenai. When they wake the next morning they slowly discover that no one remains anywhere in town. The movie is beautifully shot and Iceland’s majestic and stunningly stark landscapes make an excellent backdrop to this story that centers on the isolation of being the last people on Earth. What starts out as the sort of childish freedom you feel when your teacher leaves the classroom is replaced by the dread of being alone. They both deal with this dilemma in their own ways. Riley, choosing to see the brighter side of things is content to be with his love in this magical diorama, surrounded by endless interesting backdrops for his photography. Jenai on the other hand begins to question were they spared this rapture that took the rest of the planet or are the sole ones being punished? The movie is purposefully vague, with no cause ever being outlined and no greater depth given to what that means for the rest of the world. An interesting point was the apparent genesis of this event, the strange lights in the sky, are never discussed between the characters, again reflecting on the title keeping parts of the story just out of reach or out of focus. Co-writers and directors Geoffrey Orthwein and Andrew Sullivan created an effective narrative using little to no SFX or heavy exposition in the dialog to convey their story of the human side of the apocalypse. This film was partially financed by a successful GoFunMe campaign and all 610 contributors were thanked at the end of the film. I don’t want to spoil too much, but the film is heavy and ends darkly…without too much being over explained. Leaving just enough of the story out of focus, like the namesake title, Bokeh has been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light” and this was indeed a fitting title for this film.
The story is taken from the 2014 novel by Josh Malerman. Produced and starring Sandra Bullock it tells the story on a world ending invasion by an unnamed force that drives anyone witnessing it’s true form to go insane and take their own life. Immediate parallels can be drawn to both A Quiet Place and The Happening….and while there are similarities that cannot be ignored, that is where any comparison must stop because Bird Box is actually good (A Quiet Place wasn’t bad, just didn’t 100% deliver IMHO). Normally in a movie where you hardly (or never) see the monster I find it hugely frustrating, but I did not for this film for some reason. It just worked that you never actually fully see the entity at the root of this genocide. The film was gripping and well done, taking the source material seriously and never going for the cheap scare director Susanne Bier created an amazing amount of tension. Is Bird Box worthy of all the hype?…maybe. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am enjoying the memes it has sparked even more so 😉 The film raises a bunch of questions an answers almost none of them, but did so in such a way that it never felt like it was withholding anything from the viewer. I do want to give a shout out to John Malkovich who played the “why am I stuck in the apocalypse with this a$$hole”. While playing that part to the nines, I do want to mention he spoke the truth just about all the time and the group would have been better off listening to him in the long run.
Netflix continues to show why they are the premiere streaming service available. Even with the threat of Marvel/Disney and other entities withholding content for their own streaming service offerings, it doesn’t look like that is going to slow the Netflix train down anytime soon. Still heartbroken on then apparent loss of most of the Marvel originals (holding out hope for a restructured “Heroes for Hire” series replacing the cancelled ones)