(Stephen Fingleton, 2015)
The Survivalist aims to depict a post-apocalyptic world without any of the iconography or mythology of the Road Warrior school of post-apocalyptic action. It focuses on one man living alone on a tiny farm hidden in Northern Irish woodland. When we first encounter him he is disposing of the corpse of an intruder, and we sense this is not the first time. He tends to his crops, sleeps, eats, masturbates. He is twitchy and paranoid about more intruders, and as we learn, he is right to be. This is - as it always is after an apocalypse in fiction - a world of Darwinian principles. Only the very strongest survive. Two women arrive. Mother and daughter, they say. They want food, perhaps a nights shelter. They trade sex with the younger woman for both. Meanwhile they plot to take the man's gun and his home away from him.
Fingleton carefully observes the shifting dynamics between these three people. The watchful, cunning older woman. The man's wariness soften as he develops feelings for the girl. The girl realise who she may be better off siding with. Eventually, other intruders come. They are armed. Loyalties are tested, realities faced. There is little dialogue, no non-diagetic music. We hear the characters breathe, the wind in the trees. We watch their eyes watch one another.
The space is precisely mapped out by Fingleton, the arena of the shed the three share, the clearing where the man confronts an intruder, the stream nearby. The pacing is deliberate, controlled. This is a slow world. No need to rush it. It acquires a mesmeric quality.
Martin McCann is excellent as the man, so stoic that any flicker of feeling in his eyes has a seismic effect. Mia Goth is just as mysterious as the young woman, while Olwen Fouere seems to have stepped from some medieval myth; wise and frightening, she possesses an unforgettable face.
This is tense, beautiful, though-provoking. Its quality makes a virtue of a small budget and modest ambition.