More people need to watch one of the best sci-fi movies of 2022
The 2022 sci-fi gem Vesper won’t hit everyone.
This dystopian mystery is a moving picture book, slowly turning the pages so you can absorb every delicate and wondrous detail. In other words, don’t watch this if you’re looking for an insane action blockbuster.
Watch it – on Netflix in the UK or rent it on Prime Video, Apple TV Plus and more – to be wrapped up in an apocalyptic biopunk fairy tale. Vesper looks like a fantasy from the art pages of Simon Stålenhag’s Tales From the Loop. Huge bestial monuments stand in the distance from a desolate field, shrouded in a sea of mist. A young girl and her floating orb-shaped droid buddy collect trash. It is the setting of a dark, mysterious and beautiful fairy tale in which meditation will immerse body and soul.
The titular Vesper (Raffiella Chapman) is a 13-year-old botanist whose life and skills are devoted to keeping her paralyzed father alive. She competes for the trash of other collectors by collecting the remains of a decaying Earth, where scarce resources are controlled by the powerful inhabitants of the Citadel.
But we live on the periphery, in the treacherous forests and steaming swamps of an Earth clinging to life after ecosystem collapse. A brilliant biohacker, Vesper is the conductor of an orchestra of colorful, almost magical plants, some of which are as frighteningly hungry as the human-eating fungus in The last of us.
When Vesper encounters a blonde, almost Lord of the Rings figure (Rosy McEwen), events unfold that cause him to sow a beacon of hope for others his age, struggling to find light on a ruined planet.
Directors Kristina Buožytė and Bruno Samper, who also directed the hypnotic sci-fi thriller Vanishing Waves in 2012, weaved themes of beauty and resilience in the hope that Vesper will make us believe in a future, despite the state of the world. It took them years of research to build the universe, incorporating “recent innovations in organic architecture, bio-design, genetic engineering, and even plant sexuality.”
The result is a unique, richly realized sci-fi dystopia with a lived-in, almost Andorian in its tactile nature. But Vesper isn’t just about creating atmosphere. A breeder of synthetic humans (Eddie Marsan) has a sinister interest in Vesper and there are moments of squirming body horror.
Then, floating in the darkness – a flicker of warmth, a glowing lantern carried by Vesper, followed by his old scout drone with a smiley face painted on it. The drone’s comforting paternal voice echoes in the silence of a graveyard world. In the back is the mysterious elven-looking Camellia, containing secrets that move the story forward. Vesper develops a mother-daughter bond with Camellia, a simple sentiment that illuminates the gloom with a purity and innocence.
Curiously, despite the dark fairy-tale nature of this world, dreaming and escapism are portrayed as destructive. The most precious thing is to face the obstacles, no matter how hard, that reality throws at you head-on. While the distant Citadel dominates its own mythology, constructed by the power of storytelling, the reality of its existence is grim.
For something a little different from your usual blockbuster sci-fi fare, try Vesper. It feels small, earthy, confined to a handful of places, without the over-the-top pontificating grandeur. It is planted from the perspective of a child of a dystopia, calm and agile. And yet, the breadth, scope and majesty of this world are mighty.
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