Post-Apocalyptic worlds are common place. We all have our escape plans and survival gears, knowledge that was thrust upon us with popular television shows during a time of social turbulence. Some might think they are prepared if stranded in the city, but what if your refuge is a seemingly deserted island? In Alex Lightman’s new film Tear Me Apart the audience is confronted with this and many other questions.
Several years after an outbreak and social collapse, two brothers (Alfie Stewart and Frazer Alexander) await the return of their father. They try to get on with their lives as best they can, scavenging for food while obeying the rules laid out by their father. Seclusion is tricky, excentuated by the constant battle between humanity and survival. It’s not until these brothers discover an orphaned girl named Molly (Jennie Eggleton) that their world is called into question.
For a film that has little exploratory dialogue, the characters are robust. Screenwriter Tom Kerevan has given each of the main characters their own distinct magnetism. With no outsides forces to shape their personality, these characters are still able to be interesting to watch. Stewart and Alexander were able to dive within Kerevan’s world he created with his words and explore the depth of what this new world really means.
The story of Tear Me Apart is amplified by the epic visuals and deafening silences. The background of what happened to the modern world or where the father went isn’t important, what is important is the present and how to make it to the future. The atmosphere is set from the beginning and held throughout, allowing the audience to imagine what it would like being in that horrendous position. The lack of heavy dialogue and over exaggerated explanations only add to complexity of the world.
These kids, these children in a deeper sense of the word, are not the only ones living in this asylum. Throughout the film they cross paths with several adults, and the most fascinating thing is that their mental state is more fragile than the ones who can’t remember the old world. How easy it is to forget what it means to live in a civilized world, and the adults in this film explore that concept. They don’t serve as much as an antagonist to our protagonist as it is the ying to the possible yang of uncivilized life.
It’s hard to keep an audience engaged when the spectacle on screen is purely emotional, but with the partnership that Lightman was able to form with Kerevan that never was a problem. There was enough of an indication that there is a bigger concealed world beyond the borders that attention never falters. With the acknowledgement of a bigger society, the film becomes less about outwardly survival and more about an internal one.
That question ultimately being what is the meaning of survival and if it purely is our need to stay nourished? How long can we fight our primal urges, and is it fair to try? Lastly, how do you protect others and yourself? These questions aren’t answered with a straightforward cheat sheet, and that isn’t the point. The journey you take is through yourself, and realizing that a post-apocalyptic world may not be that far off of where you are now.
The intrigue of Tear Me Apart lies in the effortless story being told on multiple levels. On the surface, it may be about two brothers trying to survive on a deserted island, but it’s not a lofty leap to something more substantial. Good movies pose questions larger than yourself, allowing the audience to explore their version with ease. Good movies also present you with an engaging story where you forget about your reality and enjoy someone else’s. Great movies allow you to do both, and that is exactly what kind of movie Tear Me Apart is.
Tear Me Apart plays the Newport Beach International Film Festival on Tuesday April 26th at 8pm.