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May 11, 2015

DVDFilm + EntertainmentReview | by Francesco Cerniglia

What's Left Of Us (1)

In his first feature length film director Christoph Behl explores the very essence of what it is that makes us human when civilization has crumbled and all we are left with is our own desires and moral code.

The set-up for What’s Left of Us, is fairly familiar. We follow a group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world, after a global infection which appears to have turned the vast majority of the population into zombie-like brainless, aggressive husks. However, the setting and horror of the situation is fairly incidental. This film is more about how the three central characters of Axel, Ana and Jonathan cope with only each other for company for months, or even years, at a time. Their fortified house becomes a microcosm of the human condition, and this is the true central premise of the film.

Christoph Behl does an excellent job of creating a sense of the bleak, hopeless situation that the three protagonists find themselves in. Sound in particular is put to wonderful use, with the pervasive quiet only being broken by the occasional screeches from the creatures outside, or gunfire from those house members out on patrol. This lends greatly to the sense of solitude and means that when a raucous event does take place it has all the more effect.

Moreover, the only unnatural sounds put to use are the buzzing of flies at a far stronger level than would naturally occur, or a background humming that occasionally builds before suddenly dying away again during tense situations. This serves to give an idea of the decay found in this world, as well as a sense of the tensions bubbling below the surface amongst the central trio.

Visually the film is somewhat less impressive. Behl opts for the use of very saturated colours, giving the entire film a rather grey look. This too gives a sense of the bleakness of the world that we find ourselves in, however it rather drags for the circa hour and a half running time with every scene looking more-or-less the same, with very little to catch the eye.

Much the same juxtaposition can be found in the characters of Axel, Ana and Jonathan (played by Lautaro Delgado, Victoria Almeida and William Prociuk). The relationship between them is interesting, with something of a love triangle being prevalent that alters several times throughout the course of the film. We see how they start out as quite jovial friends, drift apart, attempt to heal and ultimately collapse on themselves, due to their secrets and feelings towards one another.

Everything comes across as very genuine, with the only thing keeping it all together being a loosely formed moral code and set of rules, which serves to both stave off aggressive actions but also leads to their ultimate downfall due to the unbearable repression that it brings about.

Yet, whilst the overall relationship of the trio is intriguing, as individual characters in their own rights they are somewhat uninteresting. The performances from all three actors are very solid, however there ends up being very little for them to work with. It seems as though Delgado, Almeida and Prociuk are always having to work around a very singular idea of the impact of solitude on people. All three characters are very softly spoken and stoic, with little to differentiate one from the other save for ‘quirks’, such as tattoos and scars, which seem to have been inserted largely for the sole purpose of trying to give a false sense of personality.

Victoria Almeida (Ana)

Whilst it is certainly true that after so long in such a horrific environment people are unlikely to be particularly enthused about much, it does make for somewhat dull viewing. There are occasional moments where we see glimpses of their past selves, usually via video diary recordings, but these are so few and far between that we are left with relatively little sense of what these people were like before the apocalypse and how they have been changed by the world around them.

Overall What’s Left of Us is an intriguing exploration of the ways in which human behaviour, relationships and civilization develop or fall apart in straining and isolating situations. But unfortunately this interesting premise is hampered greatly by a lack of character, both aesthetically and within the protagonists themselves. Behl is clearly a director with a great deal of promise, full of ideas that are well worth exploring. However, on the evidence of his first feature film, the delivery needs a little bit of refining.

What’s Left Of Us is available on DVD, VOD and Digital Download from May 11th

Jon Heywood