Many blockbusters today only tell a narrative for its audience to get lost in the world for two hours plus, Evolution, on the other hand, is more akin to a painting that is open to many different interpretations depending on your place in the world for that moment.
Director Lucile Hadzihalilovic takes us to explore a strange world where its origins are unclear but fairs some similarities to what we know as reality. Opening with the sun beaming down on us beneath the ocean waters, the sense of birth strikes us as all life began in the sea and evolved from there. Observing subtle ocean life forms with the sudden realization of how far the human race has grown into when Nicholas (Max Brebant) rises from the depth of the sea. Evolution may be the most appropriate title for this film with its underlining theme of birth present throughout.
As Nicholas emerges from swimming in the seas, he steps on a desolate island covered in black sandstone with indistinguishable white adobe houses adorned as living spaces occupied by Stepford Wives-like mothers and sons. No fathers nor daughters are present in this world. All the children play, swim, and fight, but it’s soon discovered that this place is stranger than its seems. Green soft worm mush is served as breakfast, lunch, and dinner followed by a black colored liquid only know as “Medicine.”
One faithful day Nicholas encounters the body of a dead boy with a dark red starfish crawling atop of the belly button within the tidepool. Faced with death Nicholas starts to ask the same questions we been having; what is going, who are these people, where are the kids moms? In a defiant stance, Nicholas states to his caregiver “You’re not my mother.” Nicholas unfortunately never gets his answers, being taken to a dilapidated hospital to be “cured.”
Once in the hospital Evolution starts a different story, it is no longer a tale of exploration within the world presented us, but a surreal experiences that combine elements of Cronenberg’s body horror and Lovecraft imagery. The metaphor of growing into adulthood and what it means are questioned. What is the worth of males is in this world? Men do not give birth, do not feed, nor are compassionate. Males are just some form of a vessel to deliver one last puzzle piece to new life.
Nicholas within the hospital is surrounded by other boys who are most likely there for the very same reason as him, sharing an unpleasant experience to determine the usefulness of men. The males fear of pregnancy is examined as a real c-section on a television screen is shown, and infants are feeding on us through our bellies.
Nicholas befriended by a young nurse who may fancy him with an honest exploration of the journey to becoming an adult and potentially falling in love. Nicholas at the end is set aside and freed as if a plaything or some people may interpret as freedom from the world we just witnessed.
I am not going to tell you that I understood everything going on with Evolution, but as stated at the beginning of this review interpretation will vary from person to person, but it was a journey well worth it that I would be happy to explore once again and hopefully my understanding will evolve with every viewing.