Fantastic Fest 2022: VESPER

Directors Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper’s feature film, Vesper, written by Samper, Buozyte and Brian Clark, is one of the best dystopian films that I have viewed lately. Aside from the authentic feel of the story with the homelessness and lack of food for many, Raffiella Chapman (The Theory of Everything), brings to life the young main character Vesper. In this fictional and “in the future” Earth, despite an ecological crisis and living out among the devastation with her incapacitated father (played by Richard Brake, “Game of Thrones”), Vesper is very intelligent, has hope, determination. She does not shy away from confronting challenges.

It is very hard to see images of people struggling to survive and unable to feed themselves and their families. In today’s world, at least in the U. S., there are resources in the communities for people to obtain some food to get by. The first scenes of this film show the vast destruction, a swamp looking area and a young Vesper wading through the land looking for something that might look edible. What I saw her inspect and place in her bag does not look appetizing by any means.

Her bedridden father was hurt serving in the army – the one that exists to take care of the privileged who reside in areas called the Citadel (think “gated communities”) – with all the luxuries they are accustomed to. The army provided the father with a drone to be able to communicate with Vesper, but it comes with no maintenance plan, or resources from a Veterans Affairs type of organization. Nada. If there is any tampering with the device, Vesper will be living in silence with her father.

Those in control of the citadels have minimal compassion for those survivors who live “beneath” or in the exterior of their communities. Their help consists of an allocation of seeds that will only produce one harvest. Residents within the citadels also have rules to abide by and there is technology, but it too is controlled, especially with what is created. Only the certain few may have intelligence and anyone who does not comply can find themselves banned from the good life, if not worse when soldiers are sent.

In this world outside the citadels, everyone seeks to survive. Thugs exist everywhere, including among any extended family. In Vesper’s case, she needs something for her father and consults her Uncle Jonas (Eddie Marsan) -her father’s brother – but refuses to provide any assistance. He won’t do “charity” and with this, the viewer knows how desperate Vesper will become.

In the swamp, Vesper finds Camellia (Rosy McEwen) who is injured and learns she is from the Citadel. Thinking this can be helpful for her and her father, Vesper keeps her hidden and away from the uncle. A friendship and trust develop, and the two actresses are excellent in their performances.

Vesper is a film I highly recommend, despite the darkness that surrounds the characters. The performances by all the actors stand out and keep the viewer wanting to know more about this world.  I don’t want to provide spoilers, but there is hope at the end because of how determined Vesper is.

Vesper is in select theaters after Fantastic Fest and on VOD September 30, 2022.

Source: IFC Films, Falco Ink

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