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Vivarium (2019)

Updated on June 20, 2020

Vivarium (2019) review

I am not even sure how to write this review. This was the most bizarre film I have ever seen in my life. I think I enjoyed it, but I also think I am slightly mad from having seen it. The movie was just weird. It was entertaining and maddening. It was visually stunning and relentlessly boring. I don’t even know what to think about it. Maybe it was brilliant, but also maybe it was stupid. I suppose it is all up to interpretation, but I have no clue how to interpret it. It was definitely thought provoking. I feel like the filmmakers were telling a joke that I just didn’t get, possibly because the joke was on the audience.

Vivarium (2019) was written by Garret Shanley and directed by Lorcan Finnegan. It stars Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots. Tom (Eisenberg) and Gemma (Poots) are a happy couple, ready to buy a house and settle down. They meet a very strange real estate agent named Martin, who convinces them to look at a house in a new suburban development called Yonder. A few minutes after they get to the house, the agent disappears and they decide to leave, but they soon find that they can’t leave. They are completely stuck in a cookie-cutter nightmare with no exits. How long can they maintain their sanity?

After watching this film, I looked up the word vivarium in the dictionary. It says ‘a place where live animals are kept under conditions simulating their natural environment, as for research.’ That definition didn’t help me understand this movie. I am fairly convinced that there wasn’t any point to this movie at all, really. There were a few things I liked about it though. The film was visually delightful and the acting was on point, especially Jesse Eisenberg. Also I enjoy movies with a small cast, and there were like four people in this entire movie, for the most part. The other thing I enjoyed was the way I felt the helplessness of the main characters, and even felt a bit of their slip into madness. Beyond that, afterwards I just kept asking myself “what the hell did I just watch?”.

Who would I recommend this movie to? I don’t really know. Sci-fi fans maybe? Watch it at your own risk.

Film trivia

  • Vivarium had a budget of 4 million dollars. It made 123 thousand worldwide on a limited theatrical release of 65 theaters in four days.
  • This movie was filmed in Belgium and Ireland.
  • The title is Latin for "place of life". It also alludes to an area, usually enclosed, for keeping and raising animals or plants for observation or research. Often, a portion of the ecosystem for a particular species is simulated on a smaller scale, with controls for environmental conditions.
  • The film had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2019. Shortly after, Saban films and Vertigo Releasing acquired US and UK distribution rights to the film, respectively. It was released in the US, UK and Ireland on March 27, 2020, with a limited theatrical release and video on demand release on the same day.
  • Vivarium is an Irish-Danish-Belgian co-production.


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