starring Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Aris, Molly McCann
screenplay by Garret Shanley
directed by Lorcan Finnegan
by Walter Chaw Lorcan Finnegan's Vivarium cues what it's going to be about with a title that could, arguably, also describe movies: artificial, controlled environments constructed for the observation of collected specimens. As the film opens, nature footage of a cuckoo bird pushing baby birds out of their nest to take their place segues into grammar-school teacher Gemma (Imogen Poots) leading a classroom of kids acting out a windstorm. In the next scene, Gemma counsels one of her young charges as the child discovers the dead-bird babies on the ground beneath a tree. A cuckoo could be responsible, she says, and it's terrible, of course, but it's nature. If you were to stop watching Vivarium there, about five minutes in, you'd miss some fun stuff, but the whole film has already been summarized. The picture boils every impulse down to biological impetus, you see. But rather than making Vivarium simplistic, this philosophical determinism makes the behaviours of its subjects extraordinarily complex and interesting.