Vesper review – inventive, festering eco-parable from a teen-eye’s view

An ecological catastrophe has blighted Earth, wiping out most of humanity and dividing the remaining inhabitants of the planet into the elite, ensconced in fortified citadels, and the rest, eking out an existence on a diet of insect larvae and some kind of noxious bacterial broth. Thirteen-year-old Vesper (Raffiella Chapman) lives with her paralysed father among the less fortunates; her world is populated by mutant plants and adult threats, not least Jonas (Eddie Marsan), who has a ragtag bunch of children under his protection but who barters their blood for genetically tweaked seeds from the citadel.

This English-language dystopian sci-fi directed by Kristina Buožytė and Bruno Samper has a European sensibility (it’s a French-Lithuanian-Belgian production). As an eco-parable it’s as uncompromising as the Swedish existential space horror Aniara. Visually, it’s impressive, with a disconcerting, diseased colour palette populated by sentient fungal growths and organic, oozing biotechnology. It’s inventive and atmospheric, just not entirely coherent.

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