Lucile Hadžihalilović’s film is the story of 10 year old Nicolas (Max Brebant) and what might be happening in his seaside town, an otherworldly place populated only by women and young boys.
To mention the octopoidal suction cups that we glimpse on the women’s backs and their apparent ability to breathe underwater suggests a sensationalism Hadžihalilović resolutely avoids. This is carefully paced, poetic horror where the beautifully shot underwater sequences of sea and seaweed and starfish are as much part of the story as the ambivalent appoach to plot and people and place.
“Shall I tell you a secret?”
Drawing visions of another world he couldn’t possibly know – the pets, cars and ferris wheels of his sketchbook are all missing from the blasted landscapes and interiors we see – Nicolas starts to question the orthodoxy of his life and the mysterious illness he is being treated for. His growing acts of stubborn resistance disrupt the town’s maternal authority to eventually reveal its secrets.
EVOLUTION uses body horror conventions – transformation, clinical interference, nightmare hospitals, squelching special effects – in gentle ways, seeking to disturb rather than shock. But don’t let that reassure you… EVOLUTION is a radical vision of another time and place (we see hints of how things used to be…), where life has changed. The ‘mothers’ now tend to the boys’ reproductive processes, painfully exposed bodies invaded by syringe and scalpel, the mysteries of childbirth revealed through obscure medical procedures and their aftemath.
EVOLUTION could be about many things, but for TOKEN HOMO it coheres as a vivid coming of age fairytale about the battle for all our reproductive rights, where knowledge and choice about conception and childbirth are both dangerous and denied. The gender inversion draws our attention to the obscene.
The monsters want control of our bodies. We can’t let them have it.
IN BRIEF: A vivid coming of age fairytale about the battle for all our reproductive rights. The monsters want control of our bodies. We can’t let them have it.
STRAPLINE: “Grow to become something new.”
Hadžihalilović’s beautifully crafted film was only released on DVD in the UK and cries out for higher definition. EVOLUTION was distributed in the UK by sadly missed Metrodome. Read about their 2016 passing at The Skinny or go deeper into their demise with Stephen Follows. The film is now available on Prime Video UK.
An earlier version of this review was posted at radiantcircus.com.