10-year-old Nicolas is a curious young boy. He lives on a remote island thats inhabited by only mothers and young men, with plenty of creepiness to go around. His mother is cold and strange to him, feeding him disgusting food and disappearing at strange hours in the middle of the night. This is the world of existence for the inhabitants of this island in Evolution, the new film from French director Lucile Hadzihalilovic.
The children spend their days at the beach with the other boys and mothers. Nicolas’ curiosity peaks when he spots a dead body undersea one day, and then the next its mysteriously gone. Strangely enough, none of the other boys question the odd behavior that their moms engage in, such as bringing them to damp medical centers where tests are done.
One night Nicolas stays up, and follows his mom out to a beach in the dead of night, where of course, nothing good can possibly waiting. What he sees is a haunting and ghastly ritual which confirms his beliefs, but doesn’t quite give him anything to do with his discovery, considering that all the people in charge were also participants of the same ritual.
Not too much for can be said without spoiling, and Nicholas’ digging and the rather shocking revelations are half of the fun. Imagine a reverse Under The Skin from the point of view from a young boy, and you can get a good grasp of what Hadžihalilović does with this eerie picture, with plenty of striking imagery and cinematography to boot. She gets a lot of young child actor Max Brebant, who impressively is able to carry the film on his shoulders. And the score is equally as unsettling as the images that slither into your memory.
After this press screening at New Directors New Film, I overheard one critic who was appalled by what he had witnessed, and I can understand his reaction. It’s not a film that will appeal to everyone. But behind all the creepiness and body-horror, Hadzihalilovic has something to say about the male and female body, and their expected roles.