Gilbert Speaks on the 2019 film ‘Vivarium’

Have you ever watched a film, and at the end you asked yourself, “What the hell did I just watch?” Vivarium is that kind of film, but…did I like it?


Vivarium is a 2019 horror film directed by Lorcan Finnegan, written by Finnegan and Garret Shanley. It is an international co-production between Ireland, Denmark, and Belgium. It stars Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Aris, Eanna Harwicke, and Senan Jennings. The opening scene sets the stage with us observing a cuckoo hatching out of its shell. Here is a little background info on the cuckoo bird. Instead of building their own nests, the female cuckoo lays her eggs in other nests. After hatching, the baby cuckoo literally kills the foster siblings by kicking them out of the nest and then tricks the unsuspecting foster parents to feed it. The cuckoo is a parasite, plain and simple.

In the opening scene we follow a young couple as they search for their first home. Gemma (Imogen Poots) is a first-grade teacher, and her boyfriend Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) is a handyman. They really can’t afford to buy a house, but they check out the local real estate. The agent, Martin (Jonathan Aris), is a very strange man who talks the couple into checking out a development in suburbia. They follow the agent to a development called Yonder, where all the houses are the same dull greenish color.

While the couple check out the house and yard, Martin abandons them. Gemma and Tom are unable to find their way out of the development. They eventually run out of gas and are forced to spend the night at the house. The next morning, they find a box of food in their driveway. Over the next few days, the young couple realize that they are prisoners of Yonder. They can’t find their way out. Their phones don’t work. The food is tasteless, and the sky and sun are fake. Tom sets fire to the house with the hope of attracting help. After falling asleep on the pavement, they wake up to another box in their driveway.

This box doesn’t contain food. Inside is a newborn and a note which reads, “Raise the child and be released.” Over the next 98 days, the couple continue their efforts to find a way to escape. The need to escape is more urgent now that the newborn is now the size of a ten-year-old boy. The child (Senan Jennings) is almost robotic in his behavior and is also prone to extreme temper tantrums. As the child grows into an adult (Eanna Hardwicke), he becomes more dangerous.


I had to watch this film a second time with the closed captions on. Vivarium is so intense that I could not get it out of my mind. I still can’t. The acting is superb. Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots are believable as a young couple dealing with imprisonment while also being stuck with what I can only describe as an alien parasite. The young child actor is amazing, and he held his own power during the entire film. I am not sure exactly what message the film was trying to send, but it covered everything, starting with the horror of being trapped, living a life of isolation and claustrophobic boredom, and finally, raising a child that is unwanted. Did I like the film? Hell yes! I can’t get it out of my mind. The ending really upset me, and I know that it will upset you, too, but that said, you need to watch it. You won’t be disappointed. You can watch Vivarium on Netflix.

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