Heartland Film Festival 2015: Movie Review – Embers (2015)

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  • Narrative Feature / Poland, USA
  • Director: Claire Carré
  • Writer: Charles Spano, Claire Carré

This review is part of my coverage of 2015’s Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis. Click here for more of my coverage of the festival. You can find my coverage of other Indianapolis area film and TV events here.

Embers is a Poland and US co-production about the aftermath of a global neurological epidemic and how those who survive find meaning and connections in a world without memory. The movie follows several different perspectives that are independent of one another and collectively give a well-rounded view of how people are affected in this world.

The premise yields a fascinating study of humanity at its core and examines what makes us human. As the film reduces its characters to their basest instincts and erases lifetimes, two characters discover intimacy while another acts out in primal violence. In this way, the movie makes strong statements about what it means to find peace among people.

There’s a subplot following a young boy who can’t speak that held a lot of potential but ultimately didn’t deliver for me. The plague in the film is continuous, so people’s memories are wiped regularly. While the boy’s storyline gives the movie some of its strongest world building, there are moments where it dragged for me.

Throughout the movie, the boy has encounters with a variety of adults. There’s a moment where the boy is in a locked room that prepared me for a tense ordeal that never came. I hoped this sequence would have been about the boy being trapped by his caregiver and unable to escape. For a brief moment it is. However, not enough time is spent on it and it really only serves as a reason to separate the boy from the adult and set him on a path toward finding his next caregiver. It just felt like a squandered opportunity.

Embers doesn’t stay in the post-apocalyptic wasteland throughout the entire movie, however. There is a father and daughter who are in quarantine. Cutting to these characters’ story is a pleasant break in the bleakness and helps flesh out the mythology a bit more. The drama between the pair in the bunker builds to a decision for one of them that is frightening given what we see in other storylines. The thread follows a logical progression and is handled with a poignancy that helps build upon the film’s already impressive statements and subtext.

By the end of the movie, the characters we follow are given satisfying (and in some cases ambiguous) conclusions. Though it ends somewhat abruptly and on a couple notes of uncertainty, Embers was still a thought-provoking examination of people and the importance of human connection.

Obsessive Grade – 7.5/10

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