Review: Z for Zachariah

Margot Robbie in Z for Zachariah

Z for Zachariah is a 2015 film about the meager remains of life after a nuclear disaster that is never explained. The film stars Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine. These 3 make up the entire cast.

 Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chris Pine, Margot Robbie in Z for Zachariah

I’m unclear what the title means. The end? The world has ended. Desolation is everywhere except for a valley in the Southern U.S., where through some miracle of mountains and wind patterns the radiation hasn’t struck.

Ann (Robbie) is there, on her family farm, by herself. She has food and water. She’s surviving, but she’s alone except for her dog. She plays the organ in the small chapel her father built and keeps her faith close.

One day she finds a man in a pool of toxic water that comes in from outside the valley. She gets him out and nurses him back to health. He is John Loomis (Ejiofor). He’s a scientist who was underground when the world went nuclear.

Ann’s inexperienced as far as men are concerned. Ann offers herself to John for sex, but for reasons I did not understand he wants to wait. They live together, work the land and form a bond. John sees a way to generate electricity using the waterfall above the pool of toxic water. The only building material he has is the chapel.

Ann doesn’t want him to take the chapel apart.

One day Caleb (Pine) shows up. Another survivor. Caleb is a coal miner who was underground for the last several months in a nearby mine.

John is territorial. Suddenly the farm and everything on it is his. Ann takes Caleb in. Caleb manages to convince Ann to let the lumber in the chapel be used to build a water wheel. Caleb and John build it together.

Caleb isn’t so reluctant to have sex with Ann. It causes friction between the three of them.

The ending is ambiguous. John talks about rebuilding. Starting over. But when it comes to cooperating for the good of the collective remains of the human race, he makes a selfish decision.

The performances from the three actors were nuanced and strong, particularly Margot Robbie. This is a quiet film, there’s not much exciting action. The tension is all psychological. Z for Zachariah peers into the human condition.

Many reviews paint Caleb as a villain. I’m not sure he is, although his arrival does create tension. John drinks too much and did something awful while he was on the road before he found Ann’s valley. The only character I’m 100% convinced is clear headed and strong enough to continue to carry the weight of the human race is Ann.

The film is based on the book of the same name by Robert C. O’Brien. Z for Zachariah was directed by Craig Zobel. The film was shot in New Zealand.

This film is available on YouTube, Hulu, iTunes and Amazon Prime.

Watch the Trailer for Z for Zachariah

2 thoughts on “Review: Z for Zachariah”

  1. “End of time” movies are hard for me. Remember “On the Beach”, based on the book by Neville Shute? I saw it in the late 1950s, and had nightmares for months. So I’ll pass on this one, but it looks like it might be a quality film. Hope you didn’t lose too much sleep over it!

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