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TIFF Report: Evolution

Who’s in it: Max Brebant, Roxane Duran, Julie-Marie Parmentier

Who’s behind it: Written and directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic, co-written by Alanté Kavaïté, Geoff Cox

Who’ll love it: Fans of dreamy, poetic art cinema, who also have a high tolerance for unexpected horror flourishes.

What it’s about: On an isolated island that appears to be populated by young boys, their mothers, and no one else, 10-year-old Nicolas discovers a dead body while swimming one afternoon. He attempts to spread the word, but this gets him nowhere. Before long, he finds himself in a facility with several of his peers, all of whom are subjected to bizarre medical experiments. While Nicolas grows suspicious of his mother, this does little to curtail these increasingly invasive and elaborate procedures. Eventually, he makes a discovery that confirms something is very amiss—and learns the real intention of those mysterious experiments.

Why you should see it: For its first two thirds, Evolution is art cinema of the highest order, with just about every shot lit (or underlit) to photographic perfection. Even as the young male characters find themselves in increasingly disturbing territory, the film maintains an enigmatic, poetic grip on the audience. While aspects of this continue until the very end, co-writer-director Lucile Hadzihalilovic eventually makes some not-entirely-successful detours into B-movie body horror. These choices undermine the film’s tastefully elusive vision, but also make this an even more singular experience. Due to its challenging marriage of sensibilities, Evolution is unlikely to get much of a release in North America, but if you get the chance to see it on the big screen, don’t miss it. Hadzihalilovic’s risks don’t all hit the bull’s eye, but this is a daring, often masterful film—and one of the standouts of TIFF 2015.

When you can see it: Sunday, September 20 at 8:30pm (TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 2). Tickets available here.

Watch a brief teaser here.