Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Gaia Review: A Cinematic Nature Experience That Grows On You

Directed by  Jaco Bouwer	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Tertius Kapp	Cast (in credits order)   Monique Rockman	Monique Rockman	...	Gabi Carel Nel	Carel Nel	...	Barend Alex van Dyk	Alex van Dyk	...	Stefan Anthony Oseyemi	Anthony Oseyemi	...	Winston Produced by  Jaco Bouwer	...	producer Jan du Plessis	...	executive producer Louis du Preez	...	line producer Wikus du Toit	...	supervising producer Tertius Kapp	...	producer Nkateko Mabaso	...	executive producer Karen Meiring	...	executive producer Yolisa Phahle	...	executive producer Allan Sperling	...	executive producer Jorrie van der Walt	...	producer Nicola van Niekerk	...	executive producer Kaye Ann Williams	...	executive producer

Release date: June 18, 2021
Running time: 97 minutes
Directed By: Jaco Bouwer
Written By: Tertius Kapp
Starring: Monique Rockman, Carel Nel, Alex van Dyk, Anthony Oseyemi

An injured forest ranger on a routine mission is saved by two off-the-grid survivalists. What is initially a welcome rescue grows more suspicious as the son and his renegade father reveal a cultish devotion to the forest. When their cabin is attacked by a strange being it’s clear there is a far greater threat in this unrelenting wilderness.

Gaia is an unsettling film but one that is very well made.  The movie has some amazing shots of the forest including those that will alter your perspective.  There is a great opening shot of a drone that causes the forest to flip upside down, metaphorically showing the shift in perspective Gaia tries to put forth.  And the film has so many beautiful and well constructed shots of the forest and nature that it will give you an appreciation of its beauty despite the overly unsettling nature of this film.  And the use of color is very smart; the forest is not the most vibrant but it does contain splashes of color from brightly colored fungi or other natural phenomena.  

Gaia has a small cast but they all do an amazing job.  Rockman is convincing as the injured forest ranger, who has to adapt to this new setting and unwillingly become part of the family environment of the strange survivalists.  And Nel and van Dyk both transform into their characters, with physical and personality changes that shine through in their performances.  They both committed to their roles physically and emotionally, with bodies that are almost malnourished in how skinny they are.  They really do look like they are surviving on what nature has and scavenging for their food and clothes.  And their interactions are unsettling in that they appear to know more about the forest than meets the eye.

On top of Gaia's cinematography, the film also has very good practical effects.  The movie uses some CG to show the fungal aspects of the film and some of the dream-like visions, but overall the film focuses on very well done practical effects.  The mushrooms and gore in nature are particularly well done, and they give you a sense of what the characters are up against.  However, Gaia is a very interesting film but it is slowly paced.  I liked the character development, but it does feel like not a lot happens during this unusual situation.  And the underlying message of the film is also unclear, as it seems to point towards impending doom for the planet but that is lost in some of the horror aspects of it.  

Gaia is a cinematic experience, with some beautiful, unsettling nature shots, practical effects, and a strange story that slowly but surely grows on you.

Watch it.

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Gaia is in theaters on June 18, 2021 and digitally and on demand on June 25, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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