Stephen Fingleton’s 2015 film, The Survivalist is a bleak and sombre post-apocalyptic drama. This Irish-shot film is not one for the Mad Max crowd, but the dark and deliberate tone is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (and John Hillcoat’s film).
Martin McCann plays a man living on his own in the wilderness following the breakdown of society. His solitude is broken when two women (Mia Goth and Olwen Fouere) arrive at his door seeking food and shelter. The three make an uneasy alliance but they never truly trust each other in a world which is as short on compassion as it is on food and fuel.
Fingleton’s film is very sparse and he builds a claustrophobic atmosphere by keeping the setting within a small cabin and dense forests. We never get to fully see the outside world but we can sense the inherent danger by the interactions of the main characters. The film shows how people need to connect with others in even the smallest of societies but also the inherent suspicion and paranoia that arises when they are confined to such close quarters. This suspicion means that each character has many shades that lend the film a dark morality. There is no good or bad divide, just a need to survive. Everyone on the film is ultimately out for themselves but they’re pulled into helping others through the fear of being alone.
The Survivalist is a dark film that doesn’t pull any punches. It’s not what you would call an ‘enjoyable’ film but this well put together drama raises a lot of questions for the audience. Stephen Fingleton has crafted an impressive drama that follows many of the rules of the the post-apocalyptic genre but it never feels derivative. The central theme on the fear of others encroaching on your private space makes it a fitting morality play that holds a mirror up to our current world climate.