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Film Review: “Vesper” Achieves a Unique Brilliance

Written by: Adam Vaughn | September 29th, 2022

Film poster: “Vesper”

Vesper (Kristina Buozyte/Bruno Samper, 2022) 3½ out of 4 stars.

Set in a futuristic world where humanity has fallen victim to catastrophic viral outbreaks, and where Earth’s dystopian state causes the air to be almost unbreathable, Vesper showcases a vast array of alien-like plant life, many of them deadly to the remaining people. Young Vesper (Raffiella Chapman, Homebound) navigates this dangerous and foreign universe, aiding her paralyzed father (Richard Brake, Offseason) and dodging the wrath of her brutal and perverted uncle, Jonas (Eddie Marsan, Wrath of Man), who leads a local group of survivors. When a strange woman from the high-tech, elite “Citadel” communities crash-lands in the wild, Vesper must choose whom to trust and protect to ensure her own survival.

The film’s true beauty comes from its distinct art direction, which use a specific what-if future, where strange floral creatures dominate. Various forms of fictional, but vivid, plant life captivate, each with a biological purpose and unique presentation. On top of this, directors Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper (Vanishing Waves) also offer fine character development and storytelling, making sure those two elements do not play second banana to the spectacle. Brake’s limited, yet effective, role as a paralyzed father communicating with Vesper through a hovering bionic drone is quite charming. Marsan, as the antagonist, creates a well-rounded villain, and Chapman as Vesper is a fresh and relatable protagonist wandering through post-apocalyptic society.

Raffiella Chapman in VESPER ©IFC Films

While some might argue that the theme of rich vs poor is an overutilized one, the directors find ways to revitalize the premise by focusing on the desperate tension between the characters. The juxtaposition of slavish inhabitants of the outside is easily compared to the unseen, technologically advanced population of the Citadel, personified only by the victimized, but still privileged, Camelia (Rosy McEwen, Blue Jean), who plays a man-made humanoid known as a “Jug.” The last final set of antagonists, a band of skull-faced Citadel guards, put the hammer in the nail as a world made cruel not only by plants, but also by more entitled humans.

Ultimately, the film leads to a full-circle conclusion, even if it feels too rushed at the end. The result is nevertheless a very hopeful finale within this grim fairytale of a narrative. Buozyte and Samper weave a personal story about a young girl who is very much alone in an abusive world, yet uses her gifts and determination to become a hero. In the very same way that Suzanne Collins brought us all her familiar dystopia in The Hunger Games, Vesper builds a protagonist who is resourceful and caring.

Still from VESPER ©IFC Films

Adam Vaughn is a graduate of the Film & Moving Image program at Stevenson University, with a focus in Cinematography and Production. He also has a minor in Theater and Media Performance. Adam works as a freelance photographer and videographer, focusing his craft on creating compelling photographic and cinematic imagery. Adam is excited to join the Film Festival Today team and explore the world of cinema and visual arts.

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