Set in a dystopian future where starvation is rife and mankind has been reduced to their primal nature of survival, Stephen Fingleton's The Survivalist is a dire, minimalist deconstruction of sustainability, where the harsh realities of nature provide little reprieve for sentimentality or empathy, with tactical practicality being of paramount concern. Featuring almost no dialogue early on, The Survivalist details the exploits of a man who lives off the grid, maintaining a small plot of land hidden deep in the forest in order to survive. A character who lives a life of complete and utter solitude, only concerned with survival, this man finds his internal cree tested by the arrival of a starving woman and her teenager daughter who seek refuge. Extremely untrustworthy at first, this man's veneer of suspicion soon weakens under the weight of his own loneliness, as he strikes a deal with the mother and daughter for refuge, with their budding, yet uneasy relationship slowly injecting more than just necessity into life, but also desire- a fleeting concept for a survivalist. Stephen Fingleton's The Survivalist is a film which never neglects the dire situation in which its characters find themselves in, never shying away from delivering an honest, grim reality of this existence, where tough decisions are made in order to survive, with empathy and general human kindness only managing to shine through in small glimpses, with these character's showcasing a quiet, muted yearning for some form of sentimentality which this existence strictly doesn't afford them. In this setting, desire is an afterthought, an incomprehensible ideal, a paramount aspect of our shared humanity which has been stripped away by scarcity and death with our main protagonist's own cold demeanor only slowly deteriorating once the mother and teenage daughter come into his life, offering him some semblance of companionship/shared humanity. The Survivalist exhibits how desire is an intrinsic part of our humanity, with necessity not being enough when it comes to placating the human condition. All these character, the man, the woman, and her daughter, have been reduced to a primal form of survival in one way or another, with trust being almost unattainable in such a world where life itself is less than assured. While grim from opening to close, at its core, The Survivalist is a film about humanities need for companionship, trust, and empathy, with the character arch of our main protagonist being one which finds a cold, primal figure slowly and methodically come to a point where he finds something in his life that he cares more about than himself. It's through his personal sacrifice that he finds solace in this harsh environment, placing another person's well-being above his own in the end, a completely foreign concept, particularly in this scarcity-stricken dystopian world. Exquisitely crafted and meticulous in its ability to create an atmosphere of foreboding dread and introspection, Stephen Fingleton's The Survivalist is a dire, yet poetic journey into darkness which finds a semblance of light.
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