Vivarium, movie (2019) - Film review by KadmonVivarium, movie (2019)
image © Vivarium

Article updated: 2020.05.06

The Vivarium (2019) is a supernatural mystery film. The movie was reviewed by Kadmon.

Product: Vivarium (2019)

Original title: Vivarium

Series: -

Setting: alternate Earth

Product type: Film, Genre: Supernatural mystery, Style: mystery

Release: 2019.05.18

Reviewer: Kadmon, Type: Male, 40s, Taste: Immersive, logical story, consistent setting, prefers surprises

Watched: very recent (2020.04), first time

Rating: Average (2 out of 3 points), Enjoyment: Weak (1 out of 3 points)

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This is my review of Vivarium, a supernatural mystery movie from 2019. It's about a young couple trying to bring up a baby given to them under mysterious circumstances. The film looks nice, the actors are good, and there are a couple of interesting scenes. The overall story however is slow and boring. I did not enjoy the Vivarium film.

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Review (spoiler-free) - Vivarium movie

I didn't know much about Vivarium, but after a couple of recommendations, I though I'd give it a try. I don't remember watching the trailer, but I'm sure I've seen some scenes in channels about movies.

The Vivarium film is about a young couple trying to bring up a baby given to them under mysterious circumstances. They are forced to stay and bring up the child, while they try to get out of the situation.

Vivarium has a very interesting concept, it has good scenes, but overall, it's too long for the content within. Visually it's very nice. The characters are a little bland, but the actors are good, and get the most out of them.

My main problem is that beyond the basic concept, the plot of the Vivarium film doesn't go anywhere, and the story is uninteresting, making the film pointless.

My experience

As you can probably guess from my review, I didn't particularly enjoy the Vivarium film. I was interested in the slow setup, but after 30 minutes I started to feel that the movie is dragging, at 45 minutes I started to feel bored. I watched the movie until the end, because I hoped there will be a twist, and the movie will become more interesting, but it didn't happen. There are summaries of the movie on YouTube, if you watch those, you'll spare yourself 90 minutes of boredom.

Rating: Average (2 out of 3 points). Vivarium is watchable.

Enjoyment: Bad (1 out of 3 points). I didn't like the film.

Chance of watching it again: None. There's nothing in the Vivarium film for me that would make watching it again worthwhile.

Rewatchability: I think that if you liked the film for first viewing, you'll like it for the visuals and atmosphere, not for the story. So, you'll probably like to watch Vivarium more than once.

Vivarium, movie (2019) - Film review by KadmonVivarium, movie (2019)
image © Vivarium

Will you enjoy this?

I don't think anyone would enjoy the Vivarium film, but I suppose there are people who would feel it worthwhile to watch it.

If you are young, I don't think you could really project yourself into the main characters, thus leaving the movie less of an immersive experience. It could give you some ideas about how it feels to be a parent.

If you are absolutely naive, or an extra-terrestrial, this movie might shed light on the life of ordinary people, so you might enjoy it. However, there are plenty of better films to do that.

If you have a child, you probably already know how life works, so the Vivarium film can't really show you anything new.

The only audience that I think really should watch this film, are those people who are planning to have a baby. After you decide that you'd like to start your "baby project", watch Vivarium. If the would-be parents still feel that you are up to the task after watching the Vivarium movie, they'll be okay with a kid. Or at least they had been warned. Even if they had a child a while ago, and now they think that they are open to have another one, watching this might help them remember the first couple of years, as time can make them forget the worst, and they might remember only the best parts.

Do not show this film to any women expecting a baby, because the depressing nature of the story, combined with the theme of motherhood, might switch her mood to depressed due to the hormones. And also, I don't think it's useful to show the Vivarium movie to anyone who has a small child, and cannot escape from the reality that comes with that.

Watching for plot points

If you are only watching this film because you are curious whether it has some interesting background story or twist - I think you are better off with reading the plot summary of Vivarium on WikiPedia, or watch one of the video summaries, I'm going to list in the Resources section.

Vivarium, movie (2019) - Film review by KadmonVivarium, movie (2019)
image © Vivarium

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Review with spoilers - Vivarium movie

I like the idea, the actors, the cinematography, but the running time was too long for me.

The ending of the Vivarium movie - everybody dies - might have been a twist ending 50 years ago, but now I don't consider it interesting. And that's the only twist in the film, so you wait the whole time, hoping that the creators can get creative, and come up with an ending that will surprise you, or shock you, but they just tease you with the hope of a story.

Being depressive and boring is not a good combination for a film.

Plot summary

The movie starts by trying to hammer the allegory of the story into the viewer - we see a baby bird that pushes the other baby birds out of a nest, then grow larger than the parents that try to feed it. It's a cuckoo, but if you don't know already what a cuckoo is, you won't be told. Although it is mentioned a bit later that behaving like that is not cruelty for them, it is their nature.

A young couple is looking for a new home. They meet a strange estate agent, who lead them to a suburban development. After showing around a house, the agent vanishes. The couple try to leave the place, but no matter how long they drive, they always get back to their starting point. They realise that the place is endless. When the fuel runs out of their car, they get into the house to sleep. Next day they receive a box full of consumer goods. They try to burn down the house, but the building gets rebuilt.

Next day they receive a child in the box, with a note that they will be released when the child is brought up. They keep the kid fed, they care for him, although neither of them love the kid. The kid try to observe and mimic them. The unintentional dad starts digging a hole in the backyard, and keep doing that all day long. The couple starts to feel distanced. The man starts to feel ill, get promised to be released, then he dies. Then some time later, the woman also dies.

The kid, now a grown man, goes back to the city, and takes the place of the previous real estate agent, who now dies to give way to the new generation.

The setting

The story of Vivarium starts on contemporary Earth, probably somewhere in the USA. Then the main characters get into an enclosed space (pocket dimension?) that has an artificial sky, and if you go forward far enough, you reach your starting point, although the place looks totally flat. The dead bodies of the previous foster parents are buried in the ground. The destruction on the buildings can be repaired easily by the creatures. I assume this is done personally, because at the end we see that the now grown up kid repairs the changes on the house by hand, and that suggests to me that the building doesn't have the ability to reset or regenerate. The sky is either an artificial dome with projected clouds and a moving sun, or it has fixed patches of clouds in the air.

The creatures of Vivarium look like normal humans, but they have a strange sack in their necks they can inflate to create inhuman sounds. From the looks they are either mutant humans, evolved on a parallel path, or creatures evolved to mimic the outlook of humans, or possibly these are hybrid aliens, created by some kind of extra-terrestrial or super-natural entity. None of this is explained in the movie. Because it seems like their only goal in life is to take over their precedessor in the real estate business, I'd assume they are not technologically advanced extra-terrestrials, but some kind of mimicking creatures, with supernatural abilities. Otherwise I don't think a spacefaring species would choose their main goal in life to be real estate agents. Unless, of course, the creatures we see are just puppets in the hands of the mastermind species.

There are creatures with advanced technology or supernatural abilities to control this space, and they use it to have their children brought up by abducted parents, until they grow up to take the place of their precedessor (possibly their parent?). The creatures have their own written language (although they use books like humans) and they use strange visuals for learning or for entertainment purposes. The creature kid doesn't always know how to communicate his needs, but tries his best to show that he has needs to be fulfilled, by screaming. The creatures need humans to show their kids how to act normally, how to blend in the human society.

The message of the story

I'm not sure about the intended message in the Vivarium film. For me, it's about how living a traditional life (dad working day and night, mom keeping the house and caring for the child) is pointless, and destroys the parents. So, you basically get a 90 minute long version of the phrase "life sucks, then you die", in case you were not aware of that.

The Vivarium movie, however, focuses on the negative aspects of being a parent, only shows the low points. There are only a couple of fleeting moments when the woman is being amused by the kid, even though the kid itself doesn't seem to be bad, he's just strange.

The structure of the story

The scenes of the Vivarium movie are played in sequence. It has the usual arc of the dramatic structure, but the end loops back to the beginning, showing that the events play out in a cycle.

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Things I liked

  • I like the basic concept of using abducted humans to bring up the new generation of creatures.
  • The place looks nice.
  • The day to day happenings with the kid (waking up to the kid, feeding him, trying to stop him watching tv, getting him to sleep) really evoke the feeling of being a parent.
  • The scene when the kid tries to imitate his alien mentor is creepy.

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How does it compare to the other works of the creators?

I haven't seen any of their previous films beyond Vivarium, so I can't compare my review of those.

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Vivarium, movie (2019) - Film review by KadmonVivarium, movie (2019)
image © Vivarium

Problems with the story - Vivarium movie

I don't have problems with any specific plot points of the story.

Unanswered questions

A lot of questions remained unanswered about the situation, the place, the creatures, but as they were intentionally left out, I think it's okay.

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Possibilities of improvement

  • Cutting the cuckoo sequence: I understand why they stuffed it into the beginning, but it doesn't really give information for those who don't know how a cuckoo works, and the analogy doesn't seem to work the same with the kid. The kid is not hurting the children of the parents, and he doesn't leave them to live their life when he is grown up. The only parallel is that he is brought up by foster parents, and that he grows to be more powerful than they are.

How it could have been better?

As I've written earlier in my review, there are major problems of the Vivarium movie. It should have been shorter. Or include more interesting elements, possibly plot twists.

Building more interesting characters could have been another way to improve the story. The couple is boring, they don't have anything exceptional, or any kinds of conflicts. They are just two people who happen to live together, without anything else in common.

If they had included more information about the creatures, the other people trapped in the place, it might have been a good addition.

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Resources - Vivarium movie

IMDB: Vivarium (2019): Database article.

WikiPedia: Vivarium (film): Database article.

Rotten Tomatoes: Vivarium (2020): Database article.

Metacritic: Vivarium 2020: Database article.

Parental advisory information - Vivarium movie

Joyce Slaton (for Common Sense Media ): Vivarium: Parental advisory information article.

Reviews with no spoilers - Vivarium movie

Ben Croll (for The Wrap): ‘Vivarium’ Review: Jesse Eisenberg Satire Bites Off More Than It Can Chew: Review article of Vivarium movie with minor spoilers, not more than the trailer.

Mary-Catherine Harvey (for The Upcoming): Vivarium: Review article of Vivarium movie with minor spoilers, not more than the trailer.

Reviews with spoilers - Vivarium movie

FoundFlix: VIVARIUM (2020) Ending Explained: Review video of the Vivarium film, with spoilers. Includes plot summary.

Jez Stoker (for Borrowing Tape): Vivarium: Review article of the Vivarium movie, with spoilers.

Haleigh Foutch (for Collider): ‘Vivarium’ Review: Jesse Eisenberg & Imogen Poots Take an Existential Trip to Suburban Hell: Review article of the Vivarium film, with spoilers. Includes plot summary.

Matt Donato (for Flickering Myth): Movie Review – Vivarium (2019): Review article of the Vivarium movie, with spoilers.

Ryan Lattanzio (for IndieWire): ‘Vivarium’ Review: Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots Star in a Creepy Suburban Brain Bender: Review article of the Vivarium movie, with spoilers.$

Sarah Cartland (for Caution Spoilers): Vivarium (London Film Festival 2019): Review article of the Vivarium film, with spoilers.§

Simon Abrams (for Roger Ebert): Vivarium: Review article of the Vivarium film, with spoilers.§

Analysis - Vivarium movie

: Analysis video of Vivarium movie.

 

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Buying the product - Vivarium movie

 

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Have you seen the Vivarium film? How do you like the movie? Would you recommend it to others? Do you know reviews or resources you'd like to add? What further thoughts do you have about it? Tell your opinion in the comments!

 

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