Andrew Robertson’s post apocalyptic drama is quite the accomplishment. it’s almost like a zombie film without the zombies, focusing primarily on the threat of mankind and how ugly we can be when the resources run low. Robertson’s film presents a villain in every person that the family we center on meets, and how vile people can be when they’re hungry and dehydrated. “Refuge” is set directly after a pandemic involving a plague that is untreatable with any known antibiotics. After most of the population is wiped out, the rest of mankind is left foraging for food and trying to maintain some sense of humanity.
Whether or not you’re a fan of this kind of genre entertainment, “Refuge” is still a compelling drama that explore how far a father and mother are willing to go to secure some semblance of future for their ailing daughter. It’s almost like “The Road” except not as painfully bleak. Writer-Director Robertson and co-writer Lily Kanso really carve out a unique tale that sucks us in from the opening montage the show how the world fell and what happened the people living in the ruins. Jack, and Nell live in a house in the middle of the woods with their friend Kyle. They live day to day trying their best to survive and muster up some illusion of happiness, especially with their ailing daughter who is filled with curiosity and going stir crazy in the house.
Dad Jack enforces the rule that they all keep to themselves and be as quietly as possible, only leaving their house to scavenge for food and indulge in small luxuries like daylight and cooking wild animals Jack catches in his trap. They’ve remained fairly inconspicuous for a long time, that is until Jack discovers Russell lying on the side of the road injured. Despite the objections of his family, Jack nurses Russell back to health, completely oblivious to his past which involves being a part of a group of violent scavengers, all of whom have grown so desperate they’re breaking rule one and murdering families for their resources. With Russell’s psychotic brother surely on the hunt for him, and Jack’s accidental interruption of a massacre from another group of scavengers, their serenity is soon interrupted and they must figure a way out alive.
“Refuge” actually manages to work wonders within its limitations, first exploring the pitfalls and drawbacks of living with limited resources and luxuries, and then transforms in to a survival thriller that keeps the tension and suspense fairly consistent. Robertson’s direction is top notch with a world that’s desolate and dead, all the while centering on this almost last glimmer of life that dad Jack tries in desperation to preserve. While every performance in the film is top notch, Carter Roy really stood out as the resourceful and strict dad Jack who keeps his attitude positive, even in the face of his sick daughter, and witnessing the vile darkness of the post-apocalyptic landscape. I really cared about the world Robertson and Kanso create, and it’s telling of their talent and ability to create such a stark and engrossing tale of survival and enduring the odds on such limited scenery and a small budget. I hope we can see more from director Robertson very soon.
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