'Z for Zachariah' movie debuts at the Sundance Film Festival

'Z for Zachariah' is based on the book of the same name by 'Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH' author Robert C. O'Brien.

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
'Z for Zachariah' stars Margot Robbie.

A movie based on the young adult novel “Z for Zachariah” is currently one of the high-profile films at the Sundance Film Festival.

“Zachariah” is based on the novel of the same name by “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH” writer Robert C. O’Brien. The book follows a teenager named Ann (Margot Robbie in the film) who is living by herself after a nuclear disaster when she meets two men (actors Chris Pine and Chiwetel Ejiofor).

The book was first published in the 1970s and won the Edgar Award for best juvenile mystery fiction.

The film version of “Zachariah,” which is directed by Craig Zobel, will be distributed by Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate and has received mixed reviews so far at Sundance. Rolling Stone called it a “festival hit” and Rodrigo Perez of IndieWire found the movie to be “easily Zobel’s most accomplished work with a self-assured simplicity that marks every frame,” though Perez wrote that “’Z For Zachariah’ is nevertheless still uneven. Its craft can be impressive: Zobel’s film possesses a searing, slow burn tone that’s beautifully controlled. The movie is admirably patient and gives breathing room and space for these relationships to bloom believably and organically. But the build to a climax is far too slow and with little emotional payoff.”

Jordan Hoffman of the Guardian gave the movie three out of five stars, noting, “There’s a lot of bare symbolism and unspoken feelings, but not a lot of action… what begins as a deeply philosophical survivors’ story eventually deflates into a soap opera-ish love triangle. While these story points are perhaps the easiest to relate to, they ultimately aren’t that interesting. Yet the depth of the world and all three of the performances are just enough to stay through from A to Z." 

However, Variety critic Scott Foundas was even less won over by the film, writing that “the stakes are even higher – the repopulation of the planet – but the dramatic tension considerably less, in a movie that feels stranded somewhere between serious artistic ambition and the dystopian franchise-building of ‘The Hunger Games,’ ‘Divergent,’ et al…. ‘Z for Zachariah’ is a handsome-looking film … and it doesn’t lack for provocative ideas, though it never digs quite deep enough into any of them,” though he did call Ejiofor “splendid.”

And Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter wrote of the movie, “A powder keg plot set-up triggers an underwhelming display of dramatic fireworks.... [The film] effectively sets all its surface parts in motion but, crucially, doesn’t sufficiently develop that turbulent undercurrents of tension and intrigue that are called for in the hothouse circumstances [d]espite the solid efforts of the only actors in the piece, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie and Chris Pine."​

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