Post-apocalyptic films and television shows have become pretty commonplace. You have your quintessential zombies, occasionally a mutant, hours-long car chases, and usually a sense of hopelessness. There is no shortage of ideas to play around with in the genre, but—for the most part—there is a trend of sticking towards what has been successful and what will make the most` money. Z for Zachariah, an independent Icelandic film starring Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Chris Pine, gets rid of the action, zombies, and mutants and replaces it all with a love triangle that desperately tries to be as tense as what has come before.
Ann Burden (Robbie) has lived alone in a small town for quite some time. Her brother left home a while ago to look for survivors but has yet to return. She tends to her crops, scavenges for food, and tries to go one day at a time. Robbie takes the spotlight in this little indie film, offering up a naive and trusting performance as she does not always quite understand that not everyone in the world—well, whoever is left—can be trusted. Upon meeting Loomis (Ejiofor), a highly unpredictable but nonetheless resourceful man, things begin to grow a little more dramatic.
Ejiofor is as fantastic as always. Like everyone you meet in a post-apocalyptic film, there is always hesitation. He grows to love Ann, and there comes the time of discussing the repopulation of the planet, but things get shaken up again when Caleb (Pine) shows up, and Ann finds more of a companion in him than in Loomis. The love triangle blossoms and wilts far too fast for this 90 minute film where a third of it is just establishing the relationship between Ann and Loomis. The three actors play tautly off of each other, all balancing out their own flaws with the other’s strengths.
But for as great as these three actors perform, it is a mighty task to make anything remotely as dramatic as zombies feasting on your flesh or the magnificent car chases in Mad Max: Fury Road. Ninety minutes is not a lot of time to develop three entirely different characters, have them fall in love, and then shatter it when jealously becomes more of an issue than survival. Nevertheless, it remains a beautifully shot film that succeeds in being its own vehicle without relying on the triumphs of others.
Z for Zachariah proves that there is still a reservoir that can still be tapped into for the post-apocalyptic film, but it also might be a warning sign that you can’t have as intense of a film as you want without the necessary staples. Nevertheless, Robbie, Ejiofor, and Pine deliver provocative performances that help make the film a one-of-a-kind.