Set in the near future, this riveting and suspenseful apocalyptic drama follows two sisters whose peaceful lives are disrupted one day by a world-wide power outage. The sisters must work together in order to survive in their increasingly treacherous new world, fighting intruders, disease, loneliness, and starvation.
'Into the Forest' is a high-concept idea packaged as a low-budget indie film and it works. It's an apocalypse film with an intimately personal touch.
End-of-the-world blockbusters tend to take on a global focus, spreading the drama across a huge swath of humanity. In lesser films this dilutes the tension. Patricia Rozema's 'Into the Forest' on the other hand offers up a point-of-view we're not used to seeing as disaster strikes and society crumbles. It's the story of two sisters living a secluded life out in the woods and then everything goes wrong.
It's the not-so-distant future. Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) live in the family fixer-upper out in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Nell is hard at work studying to become a doctor, while Eva spends most of her free time training to be a professional dancer. Their father (Callum Keith Rennie) lives with them.
There's a backstory about a mother who passed on recently. So, while these two sisters are attempting to deal with their mother's death, and learning to live with their single loving father disaster strikes. The power goes out.
At first it appears to be a simple power outage. Stuck out in the woods the family doesn't get many updates about news anyway. Days turn into weeks and weeks into months. There are rumors of attacks on the power grids, but we never know for sure. The struggle for survival begins.
The best thing about 'Into the Forest' is that it isn't concerned with the events that caused the end of times. Instead it's concerned about the people who must attempt to live with the aftermath.
Rozema puts the sisters' relationship under a microscope. The compounding stress of the situation causes old wounds to boil to the surface. The sisters work together, love each other, but the strain of surviving is very real and extremely tough on them.
Take for example a scene that happens long after the power goes out. They're subsisting on fresh chicken eggs, and rationing water. They're forced to open and eat cans without labels, containing mystery food better left not tasted. That's when Nell finds a small chocolate stowed away in a drawer, along with some other discarded Halloween candy. She eats the chocolate. It's something so small, but given the circumstances we understand the gravity of the situation.
The entire screenplay is filled with small tensions that threaten to tear the sisters apart. Their relationship is put through the ringer and the question is if it will survive.
The drama feels honest and heartfelt. It doesn't attempt to cheat when it comes to the more tear-jerking scenes. Whatever tears it conjures are earned.
Page and Wood are really great in this. Their performances, which consist of 95-percent of the film, carry the emotional weight. Rozema's directing allows us to climb inside the minds of the sisters. She's a thoughtful director who attempts to channel emotion through expertly framed dialogue sequences. Her most admirable trait as a director is her willingness to linger on her actresses letting them convey feeling with expressions as much as dialogue. 'Into the Forest' is a deeply personal tale of survival.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate has provided a single 50-GB Blu-ray disc for this release. It comes in a standard keepcase, comes complete with a slipcover, and also has a code for a Digital Copy.
This is a great looking 1080p presentation provided by Lionsgate. 'Into the Forest' sports a clean image with strong detail and impressive depth.
Filmed mostly in the wilderness, it's important that the clarity of the picture is paramount. A flat image here could ruin the whole thing. I've experienced dimensionless presentations before where trees blend together into a uniform green blob. That's not the case here. Leaves, branches, twigs, and grass are all distinctly delineated from each other. Colors are bold, especially greens and browns as they dominate the palette.
Shadows are expertly rendered. Black areas have good depth and dimension. Lines are precise. I didn't notice any aliasing or banding that you might expect in an image dominated by foliage and different color gradients. Lionsgate did a great job here.
This disc harbors a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that gets the job done. There aren't any real “wow” moments to be had here. It's a straight-forward track with most of the sound centered up front. The passive nature of the screenplay predictably leads to an unassuming audio mix.
Dialogue is clear even when whispered. Rear channels provide some surround forest sound, birds and crickets mostly. The soundtrack provides some areas where the sub-woofer is called upon. There aren't many of those, however.
There aren't any technical issues to be concerned about. This is a personal film whose audio mix follows suit as it should.
Audio Commentary – An audio commentary is provided by director Patricia Rozema.
The Making of 'Into the Forest' (HD, 16 min.) – It's a standard making-of documentary that discusses filming on location, working with these well-known actresses, and the same talking-head stuff we've become used to with these sorts of featurettes.
I thought 'Into the Forest' was a deeply affecting film. Rozema creates a beautiful and devastating narrative that really explores the relationship of these sisters. The video is strong, audio solid, which makes it worth a look.