Craig Zobel’s post-apocalyptic movie Z for Zachariah happily does away with mutated monsters, evil power mongers, chases, explosions, or grisly effects, and simply, effectively focuses on the deeds and emotions of three people.
After some kind of nuclear disaster that has left the world a radioactive wasteland, a pretty farmer, Ann (Margot Robbie), has been able to survive, somehow untouched by the destruction. She grows food, hunts, and gets water from a well. A stranger wearing a radiation suit, Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor), stumbles into her world. She nurses the sick man back to health.
Loomis, a skilled engineer, then helps Ann prepare for the coming winter, teaching her things and building new energy sources. They slowly fall in love, but their world is further disrupted by the appearance of Caleb (Chris Pine), a blue-eyed smooth-talker who seems to know how to get what he wants. Can the trio survive, or will their volatile chemistry come to a head?
Robbie is wonderful, embodying a kind of spiritual, earthy innocence while her beauty sneaks out almost as if by itself. Ejiofor plays a similarly complex role, patient and kind, but with a dark side, and Pine is efficient as a smoldering bad-boy.
Z for Zachariah doesn’t delve into its backdrop very deeply, and doesn’t really use its essence as part of the love triangle. The characters’ story seems to happen all on its own, regardless of the state of the world; there’s very little feeling of the threat lurking at the edges of the story. But the movie’s efforts to zoom in on its characters and forgo sci-fi cliches are admirable and efficient. The characters’ strong chemistry and conflict is enough to make this one worth seeing.