Into the Forest Review: The Power of Sisterhood
Into The Forest premiered at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival which is where I originally saw the film before revisiting it about a month ago. The film was picked up by A24 at the festival and is being released in select theaters on July 29, 2016 and is currently on-demand exclusively for DIRECTV customers.
Into The Forest tells the story of two sisters Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) and Nell (Ellen Page) who are living in a remote location with their father, Robert. One afternoon, a nationwide blackout occurs leaving the family unaware of what is happening around them. The three drive into town only to find that their local store has already been cleaned out of most food and supplies. The family picks up as much food and supplies as they can before heading back to their home in the forest. Once they return, Robert begins to plan for the unknown and gets injured in the process. Now, with no one else to turn to, Eva and Nell must work together to survive this seemingly endless blackout.
When watching a film like Into the Forest one should know that this is very much a character driven drama. Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood are perfectly casted in their roles and play pretty much opposite personalities. Eva is more of the outgoing “lets do this type” while Nell is much more conservative in her thoughts and actions. The two each have moments where their responsibilities change but these two actresses are so good at it that they do this seamlessly. The strength and power of sisterhood is extremely clear in this film and I think its nice to see an end of the world film that focuses on two sisters rather than the typical male driven end of the world tale.
Into The Forest is a rather simple, quiet, and beautiful film that takes place in a house in the middle of the forest. Its interesting to watch a film like this today since the book which the film is based on was written over 20 years ago. The concept of being able to survive by having books on hand to read in order to learn things seems like a scary thought in this day and age. We have become a society that doesn’t rely on physical objects but rather electronic ones and the internet. Its kind of scary to watch this film and then think about the world we live in. If something like this actually happened today, I don’t know who would be able to survive since so many of us don’t own encyclopedias or physical books anymore that we can use to learn things from in a case of an emergency.
The story is more or less about survival when the unknown occurs. It showcases the bond of sisterhood and how even though people see things different; they must put their opinions aside and work together in order to overcome obstacles. Eva and Nell must negotiate and think about their actions. There is one scene where Eva wants to use some of the gasoline to power the generator to relieve some stress by listening to music and dance. Eva begins to argue with Nell because she disagrees that its a good use of the gasoline. Eva tries to explain why she needs it and yet Nell still argues against it. The film really dives deep into the whole “what we need to survive” and it does so in a very realistic manner. There aren’t moments where good things magically happen in this film because its not that type of tale.
Outside of Wood and Page, there really aren’t any other main characters. Their father Robert is in the film for about 15 minutes before something happens to the character. Max Minghella plays Eli, a love interest for Nell but his screen-time is also rather short lived. He basically sees Nell while she is down in town in the beginning and then shows up once again later in the film. The only other character I can think of is a store clerk named Stan (Michael Eklund). The character of Stan plays a pretty big role in the film despite only being on-screen for about 5-10 minutes. Without going into detrail, there is an incident that happens with his character. This incident is extremely disturbing and serves as a big plot device for the second half of the film.
Director and writer Patricia Rozema really embraces the whole “less is more” ideology. She doesn’t have a lot of actors nor does she have a lot of different locations to shoot the film. Rozema truly captures what it is like to live in a forest with no one else around. Its a completely different story than a story about an incident like this occurring in a major city. The house in which Eva and Nell spend most of the film in becomes a character much like the forest itself. Rozema direction is beautiful and intimate. She fills so many scenes with such emotion. You can honestly feel the personal struggle that these two sisters are going through because of how perfectly Rozema captures it.
All in all, Into the Forest is a unique take on the whole “end of world” genre. It is a character driven piece of cinema that relies very heavily on its two leads to hold the story together. The film is beautifully shot while keeping the viewer on-edge. The story is not action packed but rather a slow moving journey that builds its characters and their actions. After this film, I am legitimately scared to think about how many of us would survive if something like this ever occurred in today’s society. Bravo to Rozema, Wood, and Page for being part of a terrific project that challenges audiences to think and creates a new reason to be afraid of the venturing into the forest.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel’s final rating for Into the Forest is a 8 out of 10.
Check out my interview with Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood, and Max Minghella below: