A strange movie to begin with – I had to remove “weird” and “mysteriously” from all over this post. Suffice to say that everything that happens in this movie happens mysteriously. There’s a tiny bit of dialogue, and low music during intense moments, but most of the time it’s all unsettlingly (mysteriously) quiet. Lucile is typecasting herself as a creator of inexplicable fables where children grow up in isolated gender-segregated environments then are set free into our world in the final minutes.
Nicolas lives with his mother who isn’t his mother (Julie-Marie Parmentier of Around a Small Mountain) down by the sea. She feeds him wormy kale stew, lets him hang out with the other boys in town who are all the same age, assures Nicolas that the dead boy he spotted underwater was just a dream, and sneaks out at night to slither in nude star-patterns with the other boys’ mothers (who aren’t their mothers).
Nicolas is taken to the hospital for a belly injection, then again for an ultrasound, which detects a rogue heartbeat down there. So I guess the mermaid-mothers are raising boys and growing new things inside them? We see from Nic’s friend Victor’s fate that the boys don’t survive the birthing process. Nurse Stella (Roxane Duran of The White Ribbon) takes a liking to Nic because of his sketchbook, takes him through the underground caves acting as human scuba gear and releases him back to the city.
Very nice photography, especially the underwater scenes in the beginning, with an alien coolness that recalls Under The Skin. The women having gills and the birthing experiments might point towards the movie title for clues as to what’s going on, but it doesn’t feel like a mystery to be solved, more an imaginary world (more dangerous than it first appears) to soak in for a while. Recalls some glimpses from the A Cure for Wellness trailer, but I disagree that Evolution counts as horror.
It’s been a decade since Hadzihalilovic’s only other feature, 2005’s Innocence, and it seems as though the writer-director has been hoarding her nightmares ever since … If Evolution has a thematic through-line, it’s Hadzihalilovic’s propensity for stripping male bodies of their autonomy … it’s an oblique return to childhood, to a time when there was no clear boundary between imagination and reality, when everything you didn’t understand was beautiful and terrifying in equal measure.
D’Angelo: “To watch Hadzihalilovic’s films is to be reminded that life itself is a deeply perplexing mystery — that we’re all born into rigidly stratified societies, laden with inexplicable rules and run by people whose minds we can’t access.”