Z for Zachariah tells the story of a young lady, Ann, who is seemingly one of the last survivors of the Apocalypse. She lives on a farm in a valley that seems to have missed the fallout and is teaming with life. Wildlife, foliage and streams seem to have been untouched by the ravages of extinction. Ann has made a good life for herself, but she is lonely. Her father and brother have gone off to try and find other survivors, but have never returned. Ann has been left to fend for herself, work the land and try to survive the best she can. One day she stumbles across a man named Loomis who is in a strange Hazmat suit taking radiation samples. When she saves him from inadvertently killing himself in a stream, the two strike up a friendship that blossoms into something more. Then a handsome stranger named Caleb shows up and a love triangle starts to unravel the peaceful fabric in this valley.
Based on the book by Robert C. O’Brien, Nissar Modi has adapted the screenplay to be a love story with nuclear holocaust as the backdrop. But strangely, this film has been marketed as a thriller. This is MOST definitely NOT a thriller. Z for Zachariah is a quiet and ponderous film featuring some excellent acting from Margot Robbie (Ann). She is the lifeblood of this film and her performance is Oscar worthy. She shows that she has the acting chops and is not just another pretty face like her character in Wolf of Wall Street. However, even though she plays a very mousy and soft spoken Christian girl who will still play the organ at her father’s church, she is a woman who needs some intimacy and finds it with Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Loomis is a scientist who was underground when the bombs hit. He lost everything and now is desperately looking for civilization to start over. He is an angry man; depressed and alone, as well. Loomis is not a man of Faith, though and when it is discussed that the Ann’s father’s church be taken down to make a wheel to be able to convert the local water fall into power for the home, Ann refuses. The arrival of Caleb (Chris Pine) kind of changes that.
There is a lot of potential in Z for Zachariah, but the pacing by director Craig Zobel is lacking. Although there is a lot of dialogue between the characters, not much is ever revealed. Nothing that we can believe anyway. Since this is the whole film, Z for Zachariah is a missed opportunity, even though it is exceedingly well acted by all, and especially by Robbie who blew me away. She is phenomenal as Ann; tender, fragile but still strong, dependable and with a good heart. Z for Zachariah travels familiar ground, though and not much happens. I love character driven films with sharp dialogue, but ‘Z’ never seems to delve much into the characters. Caleb is an enigma and we never find out much about him other than he was a miner, or so he says. Loomis spends most of the film looking sullen and perturbed, but we are supposed to believe he has fallen in love with Ann. A lit match has more chemistry than these two. the relationship between Ann and Caleb is glossed over in fairly quick order, too.
Z for Zachariah has some beautiful cinematography and the valley in which they live is lushly shot. Filmed on location in New Zealand and West Virginia, the land is very much a character of this film and it is put to good use. I also enjoyed new film score composer, Heather McIntosh’s score. It is a soft and simple score with a minimal orchestra and fits the film well.
Z for Zachariah is not an awful film. It is well acted, technologically put together with minimal cost and the filmmakers have done a good job creating this world of loneliness and despair for the characters. If only they were given something to do, they might have had something. Instead, Z for Zachariah is a sad, depressing, dull and empty film that goes nowhere in 95 minutes.
Z for Zachariah – **1/2 out of 4
Z for Zachariah – Rated PG13 for language and adult situations. Playing in select theaters and On Demand. Check your local listings.
Z for Zachariah – Run Time is 95 minutes