Sunday 2 October 2022

Review: Vesper (2022) (a.k.a. Vesper Chronicles) Starring Raffiella Chapman

Review by Jon Donnis
Sadly, this film has nothing to do with the Italian brand of motorised scooter, instead the film opens up with an eco message.

"The New Dark Ages, Humanity tried to prevent the impending ecological crisis by investing massively in genetic technology. It failed. Engineered viruses and organisms escaped into the world. They wiped out edible plants, animals and large populations of humans. An oligarchy now thrives in enclosed cities called "Citadels" while everyone else struggles to survive. For food, people rely on seeds traded by the Citadels. However, these are coded to produce only one harvest."

Well, that's a nice cheery message to start off with. I would argue that they never failed, but instead it was all by design, but then I am a conspiracy theorist.

Our lead character is Vesper, (Raffiella Chapman) a 13-year-old girl who lives in a house with her paralyzed father Darius (Richard Brake). She spends her days scavenging for seeds so she can grow her own food and she looks for any kind of power sources, which she can use to help keep her father alive.

Unfortunately seeds and power are scarce, so she reaches out to her uncle, Jonas (Eddie Marsan), he is the leader of a group of humans, he is something akin to a cult leader for them, he trades in blood and sex to feed his people, he offers her help in exchange for her to become a "breeder", she refuses of course.

As Vesper learns about the harsh realities of life, she is accompanied by a drone / robot thing, which transmits the voice of her father Darius.

Things get interesting for Vesper when she finds Camellia (Rosy McEwen), a woman from the upper-class Citadel living community, who has crashed in the forest in a Citadel ship. Vesper saves her and nurses her back to help, perhaps looking for a replacement for her mother who has passed. Vesper learns from Camellia about how the Citadel people horde their resources, and use synthetically grown humanoids as indentured property to do all the jobs they hate.

Camellia and Vesper start to bond, and the film follows them and specifically Vesper as she faces the realities of life, as well as being almost on the breakthrough of finding a new way to survive.

At 1 hour 48 minutes without credits, the film feels long, and although there are some beautiful scenic shots, you never quite feel like this is enough of a sci-fi futuristic dystopia, not until perhaps the very end with some wide shots does the film have that feel at all. I think this is where the film suffers, just one look at the poster, and perhaps you might be misled slightly on what type of film this is.

I was hoping for more of a full-on sci-fi film, with our main character going after those in the Citadels, and trying to change the world. But instead, this is more of a survival film with some sci fi elements.

The Good
Some beautiful shots of what is an imaginative world, and the struggle for survival does give you the viewer an emotional connection to the Vesper character.

The Bad
This film suffers due to a relatively low budget (€5 million), mainly due to its lofty ambitions of the world they have created. This really should have been a full-on sci-fi extravaganza, but I just felt there was long periods of not a lot happening.

There is a hilariously awkward scene in the film between Vasper and Camellia, where they both start howling like wolves, but then Camellia stops, but Vesper carries on howling for what feels forever, it is beautifully awkward, and I thought it deserved a special little mention.

Vesper is an unusual film, an original film as well and with lofty goals, held back by the budget. Highbrow people will love this film, and will finish the film with discussions about nature, environmentalism, the future and so on. Normal people might feel like the film doesn't quite deliver on the promises of the poster and trailer. I find myself somewhere in the middle.

I score Vesper a safe 7/10.

Out now in selected cinemas and on Amazon Prime -