Biosphere could be one of the most unexpected movies of the year.
The film kept its cards close to the vest ahead of its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. We knew it starred Sterling K. Brown and Mark Duplass as the last two men alive on Earth, working to survive the end of humanity. With a slogan like that, the possibilities are endless. Also, Brown and Duplass in a two-way post-apocalyptic comedy-drama? Absolutely, without a doubt; Where do I sign?
You can let your imagination run wild to the farthest reaches of the galaxy and never go near where of the biosphere parcel land. On the surface, the film follows Billy (Duplass) and Ray (Brown), two lifelong best friends, as they live in a domed structure Ray built before an unnamed event rendered Earth uninhabitable. The dome provides them with the bare necessities: a fish pond, a hydroponic garden, and a Nintendo game system where they can play Super Mario Bros. for hours. They settle into a relatively peaceful rut, until their fish die, leaving them without a critical food source. The two must work together to find a solution that will keep them both alive.
That synopsis barely scratches the surface, as the “solution” leads Biosphere down a bold path that left me wondering what was going on. (There’s no point in guessing; you won’t find out.) Adapting to the film’s concept evokes a slight awkwardness at first. To begin with, the situation itself is strange (but not unpleasant). Once the strangeness wore off, I found myself with pins and needles, waiting to see how Biosphere he would explore the innumerable consequences of his concept. The film bills itself as a comedy, albeit with dramatic and sci-fi leanings. Would it turn a fascinating idea loaded with socio-political implications into a tasteless farce? It wouldn’t be the first time Hollywood has done that.
Fortunately, the dynamite team of director Mel Eslyn and co-writer Mark Duplass are more thoughtful, inventive, and funny than that. Biosphere he navigates his potential minefield with remarkable grace and humor, based on the extraordinary circumstances of the situation rather than the situation itself. The script doesn’t punch or make lazy jokes trading harmful stereotypes. Every time a joke seems to be headed that way, the script pulls it back from the edge. That’s not to say the movie is toothless or lacks an edge. There are plenty of eyebrow-raising jokes or embarrassing smiles to have. Sometimes you laugh because you can’t believe they just went there. Eslyn can sometimes have a hard time balancing the comedic and dramatic beats of hers, leading to that pins-and-needles feeling again. Still, the beating heart of the film holds its own, pumping out genuine warmth throughout the runtime.
Again, without spoiling, Biosphere explores how men interact with each other and how interactions evolve without influencing or controlling behaviors. The film asks some deep questions about its characters and its audience. Can freedom be found when there is only one person left with you in the world? Do social definitions and structures matter? What matters more: your identity or your individuality? The film doesn’t claim to have the answers, but it does offer space (a confined space, of course) for everyone to find out for themselves.
As of the biosphere The biggest selling point outside of the plot is the chance to see Sterling K. Brown and Mark Duplass together. How wonderful is it that the film exceeds expectations? From their first moments together on screen, the two convey years of friendship and camaraderie that sustained their characters through Armageddon. They have effortless chemistry and rapport in every mode, from prankster banter to vulnerable confessions to fierce fights. To their credit, neither builds on their supposed strengths: Duplass in comedy and Brown in drama. Both exhibit a wide versatility in their roles beyond even what is on the page. (That said, few actors can shed tears like Sterling K. Brown.)
Biosphere it is a film that you should see as blind as possible and leave judgment at the door. What awaits you is a strange, funny and moving film that offers a bold vision of the history of the end of the world. The pairing of Mark Duplass and Sterling K. Brown alone is worth the price of admission. The thoughtful discussions they will inspire will assure you that the money was well spent.
Biosphere had its world premiere in the special presentations section of the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.
Director: Mel Eslyn
writers: Mel Eslyn Mark Duplass
Execution time: 106m