Directed by: #EvanSchneider
Written by: #MarcPowers
I blame The Walking Dead for ruining the entire post-apocalyptic genre. Where the likes of The Road and Children of Men deep-dived into harrowing character studies and moral quandaries in the aftermath of a disaster, the long-running zombie drama seems to have fooled us all into thinking that boring and repetitive fireside mopes and wistful stares into the distance as a bearded, disheveled (though still undeniably handsome) leading man delivers yet another monologue is the extent of the storytelling potential that exists beyond the end times. Amaranthine falls into this trap, offering little with its setting or characters that has not been seen before.
In between his dreams of a blissful former life, Caleb (Marc Powers) struggles through a world ravaged by an unknown destruction. Scavenging what he can to survive, he lives out a solitary existence searching aimlessly for a wife he has long lost. But a chance encounter with Shayleigh (Jen Drummond) leaves him at a crossroads – does he continue his lonely quest, or rediscover the ability to make human connections?
There’s nothing particularly wrong with Amaranthine. It is a short, stylish survival story with decent performances and a reliable plot. It is a shame that it is just completely forgettable. There is little thematically that audiences won’t have seen before. A grizzled, mournful loaner trying to rediscover his (it’s always his, it seems) humanity in a grey, rural wilderness is a tale that has been told a thousand times now, and usually with more to engage audiences than Amaranthine offers.
The first half of the film is its strongest – as Caleb scavenges the land looking for supplies. The wordless journey, accompanied by an ethereal and atmospheric score is stylish and moving, saying more than any discourse would. The campfire scene which forms the film’s second half stunts its momentum, replacing the artistic cinematography with a clunky, cliched conversation which would be right at home on a Walking Dead-style derivative. Whilst Powers and Drummond aren’t particularly at fault, the lack of chemistry between the two only exasperates the drab dialogue they have to work with.
The film does shine with its cinematography. The shimmering dream sequences illuminate Caleb’s lost love, and contrast well with the ashen and barren landscapes he explores in the real world. The film effectively portrays its post-apocalypse setting – no small feat given the small-scale nature of the project. The film’s first half does raise the question of whether it would have been a more interesting and successful idea to tell Caleb’s story entirely in this explorative format and style, given the impactful results achieved purely through the direction and camerawork. The campfire scene feels like a reversion to expectations of the genre – something that only hurts the film’s quality and originality.
There is not much in Amaranthine that will resonate with viewers other than die-hard survivalist fans. The intriguing and visually interesting exploration scenes are not enough to carry what ends up being another run-of-the-mill post-apocalypse film that has unfortunately come along long after the genre went stale.