Vivarium is an odd Outer Limits-y kind of film that simultaneously feels both deep and also superficial. The word Vivarium means 'place of life' and the whole movie revolves around an idyllic housing development that's more than it appears (sort of like the one you'd see in movies like Poltergeist). It's a tale of unexpected adulthood: having responsibilities thrust upon you that you never wanted and how you deal with them.
We follow the two main characters, Gemma (played by Imogen Poots) who is a grammar school teacher and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) who is either a gardener or the school groundskeeper (it's not really explored). Either way, the film starts with the symbolism of a Cuckoo Bird pushing two baby birds out of their nest, essentially killing them, prompting a child to ask why that happened, and for Gemma to explain that it's just nature at work. Tom buries them (very shallowly) on the schools yard and sprinkles tree bark on top of their grave.
Our intrepid couple then go to a real estate agent's office in search of a home. Immediate red flags should have been when the Agent says that each home comes fully equipped with everything you need...
The promise of an affordable and brand-new home amid a housing crisis makes the couple agree to go to an open house. All of the agents' homes are in a development called Yonder, in which all the homes look the same. Same green paint, same design, same fence in the backyard. As the couple tours the facility, they come to realize that the Agent has abandoned them. They then try to drive their way out of the area, but no matter how long they drive, they cannot find their way out and always end up back at house #9. Trapped, exhausted, and out of gas, they resign themselves to staying in this surreal environment.
They are given a baby in a cardboard box that says, 'Raise the child and be free.' Without spoiling the rest, let's just say that things don't exactly work out for our protagonists, and we're left questioning what the greater meaning is.
This film has echoes of other films/tv shows such as We Need to Talk About Kevin (raising a wretched child), The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror (for obvious eerie reasons) and American Beauty. It's a film that is full of very obvious metaphors for suburban life and how living in such a place of surface appearances and darker undertones can be soul-sucking and lead to anger, resentment and ultimately death. This isn't an easy or happy watch, but it is an interesting one.
Let me know if you've seen the movie and if you agree.