Three people and a couple of dogs try to figure things out in a post-apocalyptic world during Z for Zachariah, a strong acting exercise featuring Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine.
Ann (Robbie) has been living a solitary life ever since a nuclear war wiped out the world’s population. She still lives on her father’s land, a place mysteriously immune from radiation clouds. With her trusty dogs by her side, she tills the land, hunts for game and longs for company.
That company comes in the form of Loomis (Ejiofor), whom she rescues after he takes a dip in a radioactive pond. After scrubbing him down and nursing him back to health, the two form a bond with romantic inclinations. Is their budding relationship something that would’ve happened under normal circumstances, or is it just a product of them apparently being the only two people left in America?
Robbie and Ejiofor are a decent pair. As the slightly jumpy Loomis slowly recovers, he helps Ann get her tractor started by figuring out how to manually get gas out of electric pumps. He likes the way she cooks fish; she likes the way he provides company. They’ll probably get fake-married and repopulate the Earth, right?
That question is pushed to the forefront when Captain Kirk himself shows up, all scruffy-looking and puppy-like. His name is Caleb (Pine), and he’s exactly what most God-fearing farm girls left alone would like to have show up at their doorstep. He’s gorgeous—and he says grace before a meal. He escaped from a mine after the bombs went off, and may or may not have killed a few people to survive. Loomis sees him as a threat, and he starts to get a little jealous.
OK, he gets very jealous—and the jealousy doesn’t mix well with his paranoia that Ann will eschew him because Caleb is white, and he is black. It’s also not helping matters that he wants to tear down the church Ann’s dad built in order to get wood to make a watermill. His need to provide electricity for the winter is creating a little friction.
There’s some male bonding during a turkey hunt and the deconstruction of the church, but it becomes increasingly clear that the farmhouse isn’t big enough for both men. It’s only a question of who will blink—or shoot—first.
The movie suffers a bit on the logic side: The characters walk around with no radiation suits or protection on their farm, but they get all geared up when they are a mere few hundred yards away, in town. Still, it’s a movie acted so well that you’ll forgive the silliness and inconsistencies.
Robbie, who has given some amazing performances in the recent past in The Wolf of Wall Street and Focus, provides a sweet, grounded center for the movie. She makes a rather unlikely person seem altogether convincing.
Pine, who shows off his comic side in the Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, is great as the mysterious drifter who seems awfully nice, but just might kill you for your girlfriend. Ejiofor gives Loomis a nice twitchiness. He offers the film’s most memorable performance as a good guy who had a few brain cells fried by radiation. He’s just not all there.
The film plays like a darker, almost-humorless version of Will Forte’s TV show The Last Man on Earth, with a little bit of the dour Viggo Mortensen film The Road mixed in. See it for the excellent performances, but please ignore the post-apocalyptic practices in the film. Should you survive a nuclear apocalypse, wear your radiation suit outdoors for something like 10,000 years before traipsing around in your bathing suit.
Z for Zachariah is available on demand and via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.