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Release Date: 07/07/23 [Cinemas / VOD]
Genre: Comedy. Drama. Mystery.

Studio: IFC Films. AMC+.

"In the not-too-distant future, the last two men on earth must adapt and evolve to save humanity." 


It’s the end of the world as you’ve never seen it before. That’s not a play on the infamous R.E.M. song, but rather the set up of the latest film from the minds of the Duplass Brothers.


Biosphere, directed by Mel Eslyn (in her feature directorial debut) follows two male best friends who have survived the end of the world and are spending their remaining days in an apartment-sized ecosystem.


When we first meet our two main characters, Billy and Ray, played by Mark Duplass and Sterling K. Brown respectively, they’ve already been locked up for quite some time. Through their frequent conversations - and arguments -  we also learn that they’ve known each other almost their entire lives. Despite their brotherly bond, the two couldn’t have turned out any more different from each other. Before the world ended, Ray was a brilliant scientist. Billy, on the other hand, would become the President of the United States (seriously). As Earth’s own ecosystem began to collapse, Billy tasked Ray with building the biosphere as a precaution. Though both of them never thought of it as anything other than a pet project to keep their distant relationship intact, the irony is that it is now the one thing keeping them together. 


The biosphere consists of three key components: oxygen, water, and fish. Surprisingly, the fish play the most important role because they represent an endless food supply. Essentially, the longer the fish live and breed, the longer Billy and Ray will survive. But when their last female fish dies, both men are forced to finally grapple with the reality that death is inevitable…until something remarkable happens. 


Without giving anything away, the fish aren’t the main focus of the film, but rather a miniature trojan horse into some of the film’s deeper and greater themes. Through Billy, there’s some clear Trump-era commentary on how easily a President can destroy the world. In fact, as the film goes on, he consistently blames himself for the end of the world. The fact that he is only one of two presumed survivors is also a commentary on how the rich are prepared to sacrifice everyone else for their advancement. Unlike many of the billionaires and tech giants the film targets, Billy shows actual remorse. And through that remorse, he becomes a changed man.


Now, Ray definitely exhibits some arrogance too. He’s aware that for the rest of his life he’ll literally  be the smartest person in the room. While he is proud of the microcosm he’s created, his faith waivers the most. There’s actually a nice little story that recurs throughout the film about a birthday party Ray and Billy attended as kids. At it, a magician turned a balloon into a bowling ball. To this day, neither can explain how it happened. For the longest Billy doesn’t even want to admit what he saw, but it perfectly exemplifies the film’s bottom line: the fact that belief should not be limited by sight. 


Both Duplass and Brown knock it out of the park here. The only thing better than their chemistry is the way they’re both able to shift from silly to serious at a moment’s notice. Eslyn’s direction, while not the best part of the film, is also worth acknowledging because she manages to accomplish something so difficult during her first time as a feature director: she effectively shoots a “chamber piece.” As the phrase suggests, the film takes place in one location. While chamber pieces are usually budget friendly, they also require a lot of effort. However, Eslyn makes it look effortless here. Going back to Duplass and Brown though, not many actors have the ability to capture the audience’s attention for long periods of time. Still, their performances, coupled with the constantly evolving story, will make you want to stay with them until the real end of time.


Truthfully, the film’s only problem is that it tries to tackle so many different ideas at once. While it is possible for films to explore multiple ideas, it feels a tad overcrowded sometimes. Additionally, some of the film’s best messages get lost in the shuffle too. For example, Mother Nature is a major theme throughout the film. Sometimes there’s a bigger focus on what’s left of it outside the biosphere than how it’s struggling to survive inside.


While it may not be perfect, Biosphere is certainly worth the trip. While it is advertised as a comedy, it is undoubtedly one of the most thought-provoking and heartfelt entries in the post-apocalyptic sci-fi genre. That is only if you  commit yourself to cracking through its rough exterior.

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