Film Review – Vivarium (2019)

Life is just like one big lottery, no one knows what each day will brings. We approach every day with a level of contentment hoping a little bit of luck will shine us. Bang it hits you with an unexpected curveball, like the classic Frank Sinatra song ‘That’s Life‘, we adapt and hope for the best. The best laid plans rarely go to plan like Lorcan Finnegan‘s Vivarium.

We live in a bubble and society expects us to get an education, get a job, meet someone. Get married have 2: 4 children, in reality life doesn’t go that way or do people want to conform. Without warning these things arrive if you want them or not.

Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg are our young couple in question Gemma and Tom. She’s a school teacher and he’s a gardener and their looking to take their first steps onto the housing market to get the perfect home. The pair go to the estate agent and are greeted by peculiar Martin (Jonathan Aris). He convinces the couple to choose the new planned community called Yonder.

Out of respect Gemma and Tom agree to view Yonder, follow Martin to the estate. He takes them around the property their clearly not liking what they see, before they get a chance to reject the offer, Martin disaapears. They try to leave and find themselves driving around the labyrinth of streets of symeterical homes only to end back at No.9 the house they viewed. Culiminating in the discovery of a box outside the house with a baby inside waiting for them.

Vivarium is an oddity that plays like an episode of Twilight Zone, Black Mirror even Tales Of The Unexpected.  I caught this one at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival which Finnegam and Poots were in attendence, The director stated the film was inpsired by the Irish property boom (2000’s) only for the country’s economy to collapse  leaving theses housing estates abandoned.

Most of all this film is an metaphor for suburban life. Not just living that proverbial ‘dream’ also digging your way out of  the  obsolete inprionment. Not all young people want to conform to society’s expections, many want a good career before families, refusing to give into pressure. With prices rising, wages stagnating, modern anxities living in modern suburbia are getting higher. Off course throw the biggest spanner in the works, a baby.

That little bundle of joy can leave many unsure what to do. Gemma and Tom are no different, but one thing us humans are good at is adapting to change. The baby box came with instructions ‘Raise The Baby and be released’, Gemma’s maternal instincts drive her to look after the child. Tom refuses, simply he’s not their child and causes a riff between them even though both despise the child.

The pair now feel trapped in that vicious circle of the same routine, devoid of happiness. Tom finds himself digging a hole in the garden leaving Gemma with the child . Becoming even more disconnected every day, he’s determind to escape. As the old saying goes ‘That job will be the death of you’.

Vivarium is a slow, unnerving, twisted unsetting psycho drama. The laughs will be uncomfortable, the film’s message will be chilling. An reality check that Surburbia is a lonely place.


Sci-fi, Mystery | Ireland, 2019 | 15 | Digital | Vertigo Releasing | Dir.Lorcan Finnegan | Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots, Senan Jennings, Eanna Hardwicke, Jonathan Aris

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