The unnamed leading role (Martin McCann) is a man who spends his days scraping out the most basic kind of existence in a Northern Irish forest. When strangers Kathryn (Olwen Fouere) and Milja (Mia Goth) happen upon his isolated farmstead, a deal is struck for the three of them to live together. It’s an uneasy truce of necessity that grows increasingly complicated when his relationship with Milja begins to deepen.
There is no splintered city remains, no remarkable journeys through forsaken lands. His focus is firmly on the changing aspects of this threesome and, more specifically, on the nature of gender politics and sexual desire when social rules have been stripped away. Forced to live in such a confined space, with little food and nothing with which to barter other than themselves, the interplay between man and women – and, more interestingly, between the two women themselves – is one of corrupt character, driven by suspicion, need and ever-changing allegiances. Any of them, it’s obvious, will do whatever it takes to be the survivalist.
Given the stimulating themes it’s exploring, and the explicit nudity (both male and female), this account could easily have submitted to cliché and, worse, exploitation, but the exceptional cast carries both its dramatic weight and emotional heart.
The Survivalist is a superb, thought-provoking film that, despite its dreary focus, has a surprisingly inspiring message about the potential of human connection.