David Hellings has seen the zombie future and he likes it...
With What's Left Of Us, we get a great example of how well foreign directors gather quality actors to deliver truthful and real performances in a fresh twist on the genre, rather than the cliched attempts that have been coming out of the US and UK for too long. Beautifully and effectively shot, the sense of isolation and claustrophobia in which our three central characters Ana, Axel and Jonathan (excellent work by Almeida, Delgado and Prociuk), are now forced to live creates an atmosphere which heightens the performances and our sympathy as viewers. The banality of existence, the mixture of trying to continue some kind of life, despite the necessary confinement from the shattered, plagued, world outside their home, mixed with characters attempting to retain memories of lost family and a lost life, so that the dead aren't forgotten is rich and touching, no expositional dialogue to try and fill in the gaps of a tightly plotted, simply and effectively told story. Real people in extraordinary circumstances trying to get through each day as best they can.
The dialogue is sparse and effective, no talking for the sake of filling a script page with empty air, but pure, three people whose words are the humdrum of the ordinary days they try to retain. Like The Last Man on Earth, it's not just about dealing with the enemy, it's about doing the little things, the house repairs, the things we have to do in the real world, all masking the slow breakdown of isolated people, such as Axel's ongoing, obsessive tattooing of his body.
There's nothing worse than watching actors "act", as though big speeches and shouting are some kind of performance, something we see too much of in low budget English language films. Here, thankfully, writer/director Brel allows his actors to simply be, creating a reality rare in the genre, creating a sense that we're observers to a regular, if tragic, domestic situation locked away from the broken city beyond their dirty windows.
The use of characters recording themselves (so blatantly and missing the zeitgeist in Diary of the Dead and used without real purpose recently in The Walking Dead Alexandria episodes) is effective and sparsely done, honing the sense of characters holding onto memories or trying to record their existence for the future, uncertain world and using the camera as a confessional or as a chance for Axel (in an increasingly unhealthy fixation of psychological frustration) to watch the recordings of Ana as masturbatory release without her knowledge. The two men/one woman axis creates an unwanted sexual tension seemingly unavoidable by characters striving to exist together in this broken new world order.
David Paul Hellings