Film Review – Évolution (2015)

A film doesn’t always have to make sense to be entertaining if it provokes your curiosities it’s served its purpose. Lucile Hadzihaililovic‘s Évolution falls nicely into this bracket, an enigmatic film of discovery, a sexual awakening that may disturb you, captivate you, perplex you evolving into nuances of life.

Évolution follows the thematic experiences similar to the French filmmaker’s brilliant little-seen debut Innocence (2004) but now the girl of her debut is now a boy. A story of a boy called Nicolas (Max Brebant) who lives on a mysterious remote island with his ‘mother'(Julie-Marie Parmentier), in a village inhabited solely by women and their sons. These boys all look to be pre-puberty age and boys will be boys they will play, fight and explore.

Nicolas decides to explore the seas, in which he discovers a corpse and he quickly tells his mother of his discover only for her to dismiss it. The following he quickly goes back to the sea, only to find that the body has gone.As he attempts to find out what happened he becomes more curious to what his mother does and where does she go at night? Night comes he follows her and what he finds shocks him, he may not understand what he’s seeing but he knows he might be in some form of danger.

Before Nicolas can figure out his route of escape, he finds himself whisked away to a hospital (along with the other boys) where he’s subjected to endless experiments. He still wants to escape and thanks to a young nurse Stella (Roxanne Duran) who takes a shine to Nicolas who seems to take a shine to him as he does to her (is she the redhead woman in his drawing?) help him escape.

Évolution is not a film for your casual mainstream popcorn munching cinemagoer. If you are it’s a film that might leave you scratching your head attempting to fathom what you’re watching. and if you’re looking for something with a straightforward premise. At the film’s Glasgow Film Festival Screenig Q& A the director said herself, the film is sort of an autobiographical piece, set around her time when she had an appendix operation when she was young. However, she did leave the door opened to the viewer to decide their interpretation of what Évolution is all about, as the film spreads its tentacles into many genres.

The film is a metaphorical experience that teases you in many ways like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates, each chocolate a different experience that goads your senses each time.Évolution is a surreal nightmare that plays on Nicolas anxieties, his fear of growing up unfold in front of us. Is this film that vision of puberty terrified of losing that part of your childhood that wants to have an adventure, swimming in the sea, exploring the rocks like ripped out of the pages of a Jacques Cousteau.

Another theory suggests this is a mother-son relationship story from a child’s perspective a story we rarely see on the big screen. But as we start to observe that relationship you start to wonder if this woman really his mother? The Dystopian sci-fi tone plays on that ‘alien’ theory. They live in simple structured white stoned homes, reclusive off a volcanic sand beach (set in Lanzarote, set for many sci-fi films over the decades). The women are pale skinned, symmetrically clothed, emotionless, polysexual beings who work in unison, but where are the men? female children? Is this film really about the woman’s fear of pregnancy and their maternal instincts?

The one symbol that continues throughout the film is the red starfish, the Stella Maris aka star of the sea. Biologically it’s one of the unique animals on our planet as their sexually and asexually which answers some of those questions the film asks. In French Mother and sea are near identical Mere & Mer, some also believe life came from the sea too and throughout the film from the lighting to the way mothers ‘perspire’.The black pasta/worm like food and the ink type medicine to the boys further plays on the notion, these women may not be their true mothers.We start to learn those substances help the boys become ‘asexual’ thanks to their belly buttons taking the film into the body-horror territory.

Évolution might just be that film that delivers that missing jigsaw piece that compliements Johnathan Glazer’s equally terrifingly brilliant Under The Skin. Delivering the same fear , uneasiness, darkly poetic, beautifully haunting mind blowing visceral experience.

Paul Devine | ★★★★★

Horror, Fantasy | France, 2015 | 18 | Metrodome Distribution | 6th May 2016 (UK) | Dir. Lucile Hadzihalilovic | Max Brebant, Roxane Duran, Julie-Marie Parmentier

Originally Posted at The Peoples Movies |9th May 2016

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