While growing up, I mostly associated science-fiction films with space and aliens (Saturn 3, Enemy Mine, Alien); nowadays, sci-fi productions often turn away from space travel and concentrate more on the themes of environmental disasters, human race issues (e.g. overpopulation: In Time, Wall-E, Pandorum) or artificial intelligence, and have even become a tool of political commentary (e.g. Minority Report). It seems like the science-fiction genre has become more diverse, both in the mainstream and in the independent cinema. Arcadia, by the award-winning filmmaker Tom Large, is one of those independent features that have tackled the topic of overpopulation in a riveting way.
Marc Baylis as Charlie
Charlie (Marc Baylis: Coronation Street, The Bill, Sirens) is a married man and a father to a teenage girl; he lives in the overpopulated London, where a mysterious and deadly illness kills humans when they reach the age of 39/40. Unfortunately, Charlie’s wife is also unwell and soon passes way. Now that he is the sole guardian to his daughter, he has to make a decision regarding their uncertain future. He signs up to work for an agency which is responsible for running Arcadia – the so-called paradise for privileged people, where everyone is given a ‘miracle’ medicine that allows people to reach the age of 130. Unaware that the authoritarian government runs the facility, he agrees to all terms dictated by one of the Arcadia’s workers, which – as a result of working for the government – would allow him and his daughter move to Arcadia after a certain period of time.
Akie Kotabe as Jacob
A few years later, Charlie is sent to hunt down the person who presents – according to Arcadia’s officials – a potential threat to the government, Adam Black (Joseph Baker: The Boxer, I Am a Great Man, Fly Trap) – a member of the resistance group Free Care who, without taking medications, has stayed healthy for over 3 years. The whole mission is remotely overlooked by Jacob (Akie Kotabe: Jason Bourne, Everly, Humans, The Achievers), a supervisor who resides in a room within Arcadia.
While spending more time in Adam’s house, and while getting to know him better, Charlie and Jacob both slowly realise that there is more to the man’s capturing then just “him being a terrorist”. The film slightly changes its pace and, from this point onward, Arcadia becomes more interesting to watch. The questions arises: Will Charlie, alongside Jacob, be able to discover the truth behind Arcadia and its intentions? Will Charlie be awarded with a place in ‘paradise’?
Joseph Baker as Adam Black
With good CGI (I loved those pop-out tv screens on walls), satisfactory cinematography and impeccable performance by Marc Baylis, Akie Kotabe and Joseph Black (sadly, there is not enough character development when it comes to Adam, I wish I knew more about him as he seems to be an intriguing individual), Arcadia – made on a shoestring budget – is a decent independent film with an interesting narrative; while it might not be the most original, it surely is engaging enough for one to watch the whole film. Also, from time to time, the camera work is questionable; the fast jumping from one scene to another makes the quality of the picture look slightly maladroit.
Marc’s portrayal of Charlie is captivating – the only thing that is lacking in the film is the depiction of the emotional attachment between the father and the daughter; there is just not enough of it on the big screen. Akie Kotabe’s performance was challenging, as he was put in a confined space and had literally no one to act with; yet he delivered well. The rest of the cast: Gillian MacGregor (Adam Black’s wife), Rufus Wright (short but very good performance as Ryder), Thomas Coombes (Jerry) and Sid Phoenix (Giles), also gave good performances.
Although Arcadia is not on the Elysium level, Tom Large did a pretty good job in conveying Charlie’s story in this fast-paced sci-fi thriller and it – to some extent – deserves the film-goers’ attention.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
All photos © Bigview Media