"Embers" is poor sci-fi @FantasiaFest #Fantasia2016

To make a post-apocalyptic film, you must truly have a vision that not only is interesting, but is authentic enough to give you the nagging feel that this could feasibly happen in our society one day. It worked wonders in Alfonso Cuarón's now classic "Children of Men," but it faltered in Fernando Mereilles' misbegotten "Blindness."

In writer-director Claire Carré's "Embers," a global neurological disorder has erased most of the population's memory. Those who remain in this wasteland of no mercy try to find some kind of connection and meaning in a world that is slowly deviating from it.

At its core, "Embers" is simply told with a mosaic of characters, with all but one having lost their memory. The neurological disorder is not exactly explained, nor do you really get any of the science behind the tragedy. Some of the characters can remember a whole day, some can remember just minutes.

Carr
é tries to keep her film grounded in reality, but struggles to find some kind of coherence to her vision. The locations and set design are top notch and were clearly well researched. There's an abandoned church in Gary, Indiana where characters named Boy (Jason Ritter) and Girl (Iva Gocheva) wake up and struggle to figure out if they are or have been in love. There's a lot of questioning, which turns out to be an intriguing proposition for the audience, but finally ends up being frustrating in the end due to the repetitive nature of the story.

Another story concerns an intellectual professor (Tucker Smallwood), who has found creative ways to survive with what he has, and the friendship he strikes with an orphaned boy (Silvan Friedman). These segments of the film don't necessarily advance the story in any way shape or form, but are a way to just add another layer to an already struggling mosaic. 

Additionally, there is containment in the story of Miranda (Greta Fernandez) who lives with her father (Roberto Cots) in a bunker. They found a way to stay resistant to the disease, but Miranda still has the itch to go out, find her missing mom and build up some kind of connection with the outside world, even if it means losing her own memory. It's this struggle between freedom vs safety that invariably invades the entire film. It's not necessarily an invalid question to ask, but it could have been done n many more subtle ways than those presented in "Embers."

The only character arc that actually works is that of an unnamed young man (also the one with the least amount of screen time). This violently aggressive young man (Karl Glusman) brings a whole new meaning to the term "survival of the fittest" by attacking elderly men for their canned food, young children for self-esteem, and girls for sex. It's a shocking reminder of just which direction this film could have gone if it wanted to step on the dark side of humanity. Instead Carré stuffs her film with hope, love, family, adolescence, and an overall triumph of the human spirit.

It's in Glusman's performance that we are most interested in, as he bears the rage and fury of the apocalyptic world on his shoulder. When he finally gets a taste of his own medicine by being brutally attacked by a gang, you'd think he'd finally rest, calm himself down, and learn a valuable lesson; but he continues on in his path of terror, wreaking chaos wherever he sees an opportunity. 

"Embers" tries to be a complicated dissection of a possible world not too far ahead of us, but it lacks the imagination to make us soar along with its vision. It's a depiction of humanity and the world at its supposed lowest state, but you never really feel the misery or despair that is supposed to be present everywhere. Carréchooses to be optimistic and by doing that she makes the film lose a big chunk of its credibility. [C] 
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