Post-apocalypse films aren’t exactly few and far between at the moment, but every now and then there is one that stands out from the crowd. Z for Zachariah is set after nuclear apocalypse that left the earth radio active, except for a picturesque pocket of land where Ann Burden has begun rebuilding and planning for the future on her family farm.
Z for Zachariah, directed by Craig Zobel, is set well after the chaos of mass deaths by radiation poisoning, when everything is calm and beautiful again. One quiet afternoon, Ann Burden (Margot Robbie) is setting traps for wild animals when her dog begins chasing another smell. When Ann realises it’s another human, she hides, hoping they will carry on. But instead, they head down the valley and into a river filled with radiation from outside the valley. Ann rescue the stranger and takes him, John Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor), in and nurses him back to health from radiation posioning.
When John is well, the two fall into a rhythm, working together to prepare for their future. John puts his skills as an engineer to use and helps Ann get fuel for her tractor and poses an idea to help them get electricity from the radio active stream she had found him in. John and Ann begin to develop feelings for one another, but despite their attractions, John stops them from exploring them to ensure the survival of their relationship.
Their serendipitous relationship is interrupted by Caleb (Chris Pine), a beautiful and mysterious man with low level radiation sickness. John encourages Ann to let him stay until he is well, but after Ann and Caleb share lingering stares, he begins to regret it. Caleb’s disingenuous nature gets under Johns skin but Ann is blind to everything but his smile.
Z for Zachariah explores what is left of human nature at the end of the world. Can we really trust the people we meet? If they’ve got this far on their own, how many people have they stepped on to get here? And how do we secure a future?
Margot Robbie is really the best part of Z for Zachariah; portraying the unsuspecting and desperate for some kind of love, Ann, with ease. Ann’s desperation for love and family spills out of Robbie like there is no room left for thought about anything else. Ejofor’s silent brooding and jealousy is compelling as he tries to rationalise his feelings in comparison to the state of the world while Pine’s empty smile and dishonest demeanour sheds light on Caleb’s villainous behaviour.
Z for Zachariah manages to make what should be boring and monotonous interesting by interweaving deception, love, and desperation into a simple yet compelling story about three people just trying to survive. It’s particularly interesting watching people give up what they love, knowing that it would probably benefit the greater good, or at least the three of them. The slow and peaceful nature of the film really made you feel there was a quietness at the end of the world not every post-apocalyptic film explores.
Z for Zachariah is all about relearning how to survive after most of humanity is gone. With only three actors taking the reins and propelling, somewhat slowly, the characters into the abyss of a post-nuclear apocalyptic world.