What is it that separates us from forest dwellers foraging for food and living in hollow trees? According to Into the Forest the answer is a simple one: the electric grid. Beware the spoilers.
Into the Forest features bravura performances from Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood as sisters. Nell (Page) studies for SATs and Eva (Wood) rehearses a dance for a national audition. They live in a remote house with a leaking roof deep in the forest. Their widowed father (Callum Keith Rennie) struggles to keep the family afloat.
Then there’s a power outage.
For a while, everyone assumes the power will come back. Things will return to normal. But days go by and there’s no power. They hear reports on the radio about widespread power outages, then the radio goes silent as well. With what little gas they have, they go into town and buy up all the food, candles and extra gas they can find.
Life stopped for everyone. There’s no sign of government or of authorities trying to resolve the problem. There’s looting and no sign of police. People are not inclined to help one another, but instead turn on each other. I found it hard to believe that nobody was working to restore power, that people weren’t joining together to find solutions.
Back at home, the family thinks they can wait it out. They have food, water, and firewood. Then dad is killed in a chain saw accident. Months go by without power. Exactly two people happen by their house. Eli (Max Minghella), who is Nell’s boyfriend. He heard they have power in Boston and intends to walk all the way there from California. He wants Nell to go with him. She almost does.
The other visitor is a man from town named Stan (Michael Eklund). He rapes Eva and leaves her pregnant and too terrified to go outside the house. The rape scene is frightening and graphic and may be a problem for some viewers. By way of contrast, there’s a lovely scene of consensual sex between Nell and Eli.
The forest is so wet you can almost smell it. The house leaks more and more. The sisters have no way to fix the roof. It grows moldy and more unlivable as the months go by. They have basic hand tools like axes and shovels and hammers, but no plywood or waterproof material to rebuild a roof.
They have plenty of books. Books about forest plants, about medical care, and every other topic. They have the will to live. After two years alone in the house, it’s clear that they know how to survive. The bond between them is unbreakable, which is good, because there’s no one else around.
They don’t walk down to the nearest small town to see if any people are there attempting to rebuild an existence. They are too busy with their own existence.
A powerful scene for me was when the two decided to use a bit of their precious gasoline to run the generator so they could watch old family videos. They sat huddled together on the couch, with joy and grief written across their faces as they watched happy times with their parents.
Sometimes it seems that life is really about nothing but losses. Nell and Eva literally lost everything, including the trappings of civilization around them. Everything except each other.
There’s tension and danger in the journey the sisters go through. Eva gives birth under the most strange circumstances. I realized a couple of times I was holding my breath as I watched the film. There were funny moments, too. When Nell (AKA the tiny Canadian) perched in a tree with a rifle in hopes of shooting a wild pig, the recoil from the rifle knocked her out of the tree.
Directed by Patricia Rozema, Into the Forest is at its heart a story about women’s resilience and strength. Two young women who have never known anything but the Internet and cell phones, find their way to the essentials of family and survival. While I had some issues with the credibility of the story, the performances from Evan Rachel Wood and Ellen Page were uniformly excellent.
Earlier, I published an interesting interview with Patricia Rozema and the two main characters in Into the Forest with Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood. You can see the trailer in that post, too.
Into the Forest is on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes and some other streaming services. It’s worth seeing. If you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear your opinions about the film.