I’ve seen Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Evolution twice now, first at a preview screening in London last October and then at this festival. My conclusion on both occasions was simple: this is definitely one of the most eerily atmospheric movie experiences you’ll have this year. Of course, that I was so eager to forego a slot for another film and watch it again here should speak for itself.
There isn’t much of a plot synopsis needed. Basically a group of boys live on an island with their mothers, seemingly far away from civilisation. They’re fed on a diet of disgusting looking black worms and are injected with purple liquid every day to treat a mysterious illness. The boys are occasionally allowed to play together and swim in the sea. The mothers gather on the beach at night. The only footage of men is from a grainy video in a dark room at the hospital, showing childbirth.
One of the boys, Nicolas, likes to draw, but frequently hides his drawings from ‘Mother’ because she apparently disapproves of such creativity. Yet his inquisitive, curious mind leads him to want to know more about what’s going on with the mothers after he sees a dead boy in the sea one day.
No further details should be given. Go into this movie fresh. Some films are best described as an experience; others are given the label undeservedly. Evolution is the most dream-like cinematic ‘experience’ of the past year bar none. You won’t see anything else quite like it.
The film doesn’t rely on a lot of dialogue; extended periods go by without talking, particularly in its second half, where the haunting environment and sounds carry you through. It’s been described separately as a drama and a horror movie; it certainly has subtle elements of the latter, but in truth Evolution deserves a genre all of its own.
8 / 10