Eden isn’t big enough for Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie, and Chris Pine in Z For Zachariah, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi based on Robert C. O’Brien’s 1974 novel about the last remaining people on Earth. It’s an intimate coming-of-age story, that attempts to tackle deeper topics like religion, science, love and lust. However, the film ends up being too slight and too dull for its big ambitions.
Set in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust, Z For Zachariah concerns a young woman, Ann (Margot Robbie), who lives alone in an oasis untouched by the disaster. On an expedition to find food and scavenge through the remains in a nearby town, she carefully spies on a scientist, John Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor), wondering about. When he bathes in a radioactive waterfall, she is forced to rescue him and nurse him back to health. Soon their relationship grows, but not long after another stranger appears. The sexual tension between the three rises and soon sin creeps into Eden.
The film is anchored by strong performances by its cast. Margot Robbie offers the right mix of innocence and tenderness to her character. The play of emotion on Ejiofor’s face and voice is powerful. And Chris Pine is remarkably charming and charismatic, even if his intentions aren’t made perfectly clear.
In the end, despite being beautifully shot in New Zealand and well acted, Z for Zachariah lacks boldness. Had it taken the plunge into the deep topics it touches on we might have had a big winner. As is, it’s just too unsatisfying. An intriguing set-up yields an unsatisfactory ending.