By Tom Moore
Okay, frankly I didn’t really know how to start this review other than saying: This movie’s weird. Not weird in a bad way or anything like that, but Lucile Hadzilhalilovic’s “Evolution” constantly had me scratching my head and looking away with how graphically creepy and oddly confusing it can be.
The film’s premise is actually pretty intriguing and relatively simple as we follow Nicolas (Max Brebant), a sickly young boy living in a sea-side town where young boys and women are its only residents. However, when Nicolas discovers the body of a boy in the ocean, he begins to question everything around him. He questions how why they’re actually on the island if his mother is who she claims she is, and why he and the other boys must be hospitalized. This questioning is what makes him dangerous to the women, whose motives aren’t so clear, and what makes him look for a way off of the island.
“Evolution’s” concept is so perfectly simple that you can immediately get hooked on its mystery within the first few minutes. However, the major problem that arises with watching this mystery is how quickly you can become disconnected from it because of its lack of emotion. The film almost barely feels it has a pulse at times because of how devoid of emotion its characters and story are, and it makes for a very dry watch. Even for the film’s short 85-minute runtime, it almost feels as if the film is twice that in length because of how sluggish and, honestly, boring it can be. There’s no real through-line for viewers to feel like they’re progressing, and the film doesn’t really answer any of the questions it presents. Instead, you’re just constantly left to wonder where things are going, and it only leads to more head-scratching and confusion.
“Evolution’s” concept is so perfectly simple that you can immediately get hooked on its mystery within the first few minutes…The film almost barely feels it has a pulse at times because of how devoid of emotion its characters and story are, and it makes for a very dry watch.”
The performances are solid, overall, but the characters are very tough to connect to and never leave their mark on you. Brebant definitely gives a memorable performance as the guide through this film’s strange finds, but everyone else just simply falls into the background because of how underutilized they feel. Even the film’s symbolism easily flies over viewer’s heads, or at least it did mine, because of how disconnected you can feel about it.
Frankly, I don’t really know why the women keep the boys to make them essentially birth babies and for the amount of times that starfish, or at least imagery representing them are shown, I can’t for the life of me understand its importance. It’s the kind of movie that gives you so little to understand that you have to look up things about it to understand it, and that’s not a satisfying way to enjoy a film.
“So, unfortunately, even for all of the intriguing horrors that Hadzilhalilovic places in “Evolution,” it’s definitely not enough to create a fulfilling or remotely satisfying experience.”
Where “Evolution” does shine, though, is in the horrors it presents in its creepy imagery and the feelings of isolation in its cinematography. Cinematographer Manuel Dacosse does an excellent job making the island feel completely isolated and the environment very dark and moody. Not to mention, I don’t think I’ve ever seen underwater shots look as strikingly gorgeous as they do here. Even the imagery of the women having suckers on their backs and the surgery scenes definitely make your skin crawl and it’s one of the few things that makes “Evolution” an interesting watch.
There’s also a scene with Nicolas in a tank that will be hard to wipe from my mind anytime soon because of how damn strange it is. Even the scene of Nicolas discovering the ladies having an incredibly creepy orgy at the beach is definitely a shocking moment and the slow burn approach that Hadzilhalilovic takes in revealing her horrors is very effective at times.
So, unfortunately, even for all of the intriguing horrors that Hadzilhalilovic places in “Evolution,” it’s definitely not enough to create a fulfilling or remotely satisfying experience. Arthouse fans might enjoy this kind of watch for the Halloween season, and maybe those looking for something a little out of the ordinary, but for casual viewers looking for the kind of horrors to put you in a spooky mood, “Evolution” probably isn’t worth the watch.