Directed by Stephen Fingleton
Directed with heart by the newcomer, Stephen Fingleton, “The Survivalist” is a remarkable British drama of dark contours that evolves in the most captivating way.
The story, a product of Mr. Fingleton’s auspicious mind, is set in an indistinct place, during the rough times of hunger and chaos, and centers on a permanently watchful survivalist (Martin McCann) whose life becomes highly agitated when he gets the visit of Kathryn (Olwen Fouere) and Milja (Mia Goth), respectively mother and daughter, who arrived at his secluded cabin in the hope to exchange their old jewels for food.
This man, exhibiting a Mohawk haircut and always carrying a rifle, lives there for seven years now. Very meticulous in his ingenious efforts of growing crops, the exclusive sustenance, he's often haunted by the death of his reckless brother.
Since he doesn’t trust anybody, the exchange proposed by the women is refused, but his libido is high – the photograph of a woman (a former girlfriend?) is recurrently used to obtain sexual satisfaction - and he couldn’t say no when Kathryn suggests he can have her daughter for one night.
The women end up staying longer than predicted, offering their help. But an insidious behavior indicates that their intentions are far from respectable. Nonetheless, Milja becomes genuinely infatuated with the man, who seems a bit more accepting when she’s present. At some point, there’s an interesting conversation between the cunning mother and the furtive daughter, in which they come to the conclusion that eventually they might need the protection of their host.
A couple of tense episodes enhances the tale when Milja becomes a hostage of a predatory stranger, and also when a group of envious, faced-covered men destroys much of their already limited provisions. The balance is very dark since what’s left is barely enough to feed two. This worrisome situation hauls us to a tremendous climax that disseminates surprise after surprise.
Evincing a sharp eye for detail, Mr. Singleton succeeds in his efforts to suggest a world of violence, fear, suspicion, and selfishness. But that’s not all, because there’s also love and hope soaring in this unsettling, riveting, and quietly gripping thriller, which may be sparse in words but assertive in actions. Also, the top-notch performances by the trio of actors were vital, opening the way for such levels of consistency.