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Film Review: “Biosphere” Is Too Bizarre to Be So Bland

Written by: Hannah Tran | July 6th, 2023

Film poster: “Biosphere”

Biosphere (Mel Eslyn, 2022) 2 out of 4 stars.

When the movie Jurassic Park came out thirty years ago, Jeff Goldblum stammered out that now meme-famous line, “Life, uh, finds a way.” Now, mumblecore producer Mel Eslyn (Spin Me Round) makes her directorial debut with the small-scale sci-fi Biosphere, a film whose core existence seems to have stemmed from that line. It’s described as a buddy comedy about the last two men on earth living as roommates in a Biosphere 2-esque dome. To say more would betray its prospective audience, who would be robbed of experiencing the surprising evolution of the story firsthand. But although the narrative is certainly memorable, Biosphere ends up falling a bit flat because it struggles to develop beyond that initial idea.

The world the characters inhabit is full of all the necessary intrigue. The dome is filled with bits and pieces of the world as we know it, easily bridging the gap between our present and theirs. The fictional history that led to their fates is vague, but the dialogue is littered with enough details that one can fill in the blanks. It has a carefully curated tone that feels ominous and almost clinical. The score is a major element of this, although there’s something about eerie a cappella voices that is starting to feel dull by now.

l-r: Sterling K. Brown and Mark Duplass in BIOSPHERE. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.

The humor, however, often erupts in conflict with the seriousness of the tone. Instead of being laugh-out-loud funny, the majority of amusement is found in the absurdity of the situation. It is fun to see how far Eslyn is willing to take the idea, but the journey starts to seem aimless once the premise is exhausted. From the moment it begins, Biosphere makes it clear that it’s interested in exploring male friendship, and in how identity and friendship and the perceptions we have of ourselves interact. The dialogue sounds familiar and simple. But as much as the characters say, the observations the movie makes never really go beyond the basic. By the end, it doesn’t appear nearly as funny or as insightful as it should.

Actors Sterling K. Brown (Waves) and Mark Duplass (Tully) make a perfectly adequate leading duo. Still, neither of their characters are particularly compelling. And although it is probably intentional, it takes a stretch of the imagination to believe that they would be able to find themselves in the central situation in the first place.

l-r: Sterling K. Brown and Mark Duplass in BIOSPHERE. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.

The ending, much like the characters, is also far too ordinary and inconsequential for the sci-fi landscape in which the story resides. The writing is surprisingly sentimental toward the last act, and it favors an emotional resolution rather than a narrative one. The screenplay finishes with an overly neat feeling despite failing to tie up most of its loose threads. Thus, despite its striking premise, it never quite strikes the right balance between its characters and the larger picture.


Hannah Tran is a film critic and filmmaker from Las Vegas, Nevada. Hannah works as a film screener for the Las Vegas Film Festival and publishes an independent zine focused on highlighing Asian American filmmaking.

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