Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Slamdance ’16: Embers
came and went, but the world keeps ending every night. Due to some sort of
pathogen, infected survivors have lost their short and long term memory. Out of
sight means out of mind. That applies to time spent sleeping as well. Nevertheless,
a motley remnant of humanity will carry on as best they can in Claire Carré’s Embers (trailer here), which screened as
the closing night film at the 2016 Slamdance Film Festival.
a man and a woman wake up next to each other, they reasonably assume they are
in some sort of relationship. When they notice their matching cloth bracelets,
it cinches it for them. Just as they have so many times before, the couple give
each other names, hoping what impulse provides, will be correct. This time, it
is Ben and Jenny. Like characters from a Beckett play they will head into the
post-apocalyptic environment for no apparent reason, but at least they have
a young boy witnesses some of the best and worst of human nature, as he falls
in with a series of temporary protectors. The one known as “Teacher” in the
credits seems to be functioning at a slightly higher level than the rest of the
shuffling dregs, but he ought to be. He was once a research psychiatrist specializing
in human memory.
contrast to those above ground, Miranda is painful aware of the slow passage of
time. She has remained infection free, living with her father in an underground
bunker facility. However, the isolation is taking a toll on her mind and soul.
the strangest thing about Embers is
that it is not nearly as depressing as it sounds. It is sort of like Dr. Moreau
fused Cormac McCarthy’s The Road with
the Adam Sandler vehicle 50 First Dates,
but the vibe most closely resembles the delicately balanced Perfect Sense. Frankly, Embers is unusually poignant, especially
when focusing on Ben and Jenny (or Max and Katie, as they will soon call
themselves). The watching them continue to be a couple, despite it all, is
really quite touching.
Ritter and Iva Gocheva develop some remarkable chemistry together, especially
considering how much relationship shorthand their situation precludes them from
sharing. Embers also gives
immediately recognizable but hard to place character actor Tucker Smallwood an
opportunity to shine as the Teacher. Mathew Goulish is also acutely tragic as
the boy’s short-lived Guardian. However, Greta Fernández is a problematically
distant (like a cold fish) as the profoundly privileged Miranda.
it is rather inspiring to see love endure, in the face of such existential
challenges. It is also pretty scary how convincingly Gary, Indiana stands in
for a catastrophic urban wasteland. Maybe the city fathers should reconsider
their current economic development policies. Regardless, Embers is a highly distinctive and mature post-apocalyptic science
fiction fable. Recommended with conviction for cerebral viewers, it screens on February
19 and 21 at the Oxford Film Festival, after closing out this year’s Slamdance in
Labels: Post-Apocalpse movies, Slamdance '16