Review: In BOKEH, It's a Nice End of the World

Maika Monroe and Matt O’Leary star as a married couple who must confront an unexpected apocalypse.

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Review: In BOKEH, It's a Nice End of the World

Jenai (Maika Monroe) and Riley (Matt O’Leary) are an American couple vacationing in Iceland. One morning, they wake up to find that they are inexplicably the last people left in the place, and the world.

With this simple setup, Bokeh resembles another in a long line of apocalyptic dramas, but directors and co-writers Geoffrey Orthwein and Andrew Sullivan do enough things differently to make it stand out from the rest.

Unlike the typical apocalyptic protagonists who immediately assume the worst, Riley and Jenai don’t resort to panicking and breaking down into hysterics; after their initial confusion, they’re perfectly content to explore their surroundings and go on adventures together, at least until isolation starts creeping in. The idyllic surroundings are the perfect place for their relationship to grow, and as we see them walk around discussing life and what future they have now that they’re the only ones left on Earth, it’s hard not to be reminded of Before Sunset and its sequels; it’s what an end-of-the-world movie made by Richard Linklater would probably look like.

The directors also wisely avoid any religious connotations or spiritual parables. The Rapture and God’s judgment of humanity are thrown out as an explanation at one point, but all that is quickly cast aside. Sullivan and Orthwein aren’t interested in providing a background for this scenario, but rather to examine a relationship evolving in extreme circumstances.

In a way, this is the nicest apocalyptic movie ever made; while Jenai is a glass half-empty type (Monroe’s sad, expressive eyes are oh so melancholy), she’s trying to make the best of it, and Riley is more interested in taking photographs than worrying about what lies ahead. This is a movie about living in the moment and enjoying oneself, even in trying conditions. Even if there is a whiff of hipsterism here, what with Riley lugging around a vintage camera and the title referring to a photography term which the current “snap-pics-on-an-iPhone” generation has probably never heard of, the movie’s refreshingly free of pretentiousness.

Orthwein and Sullivan’s gorgeous on-location shooting in Iceland makes this a suitably alien experience, and really, is there a more exotic locale to strand two lovers in than a deserted city in Iceland? Joe Lindsay’s cinematography and especially the minimalist, haunting score by Keegan DeWitt also contribute a lot to the desolate atmosphere of a movie in which ultimately nothing much happens, but that’s supposed to be the point; it’s a contemplative, low-key and worthy take on the end of the world.

Bokeh opens in theaters and VOD on 24 March.

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Andrew SullivanBokehGeoffrey OrthweinMaika MonroeMatt O'Leary

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RogueWitch BlackheartApril 14, 2017 7:14 AM

No. She brings up Job and on other occasions speaks of the rapture. The person who does not worry about this is her boyfriend. I can't disagree more with this opinion of the film.

I think:

I have never in my life seen a film as poor as this as it comes off as something written by people who should not be telling stories. The film is vacuous and the characters behave as if the are heartless and soulless bourgeois teens whose reaction to a holocaust is to go shopping for clothes, cars, and a fancy new pad. It is obvious that the writers and actors have no life experience and possibly even double digit IQ's simply because nothing at all makes sense. Only soulless sociopaths would make vague attempts to contact their family in such a calm manner. They barely attempt to discover what has happened. Attempted high;ights are when the male character makes a "gingerbread latte" for his vapid girlfriend and the fights they have are about eating yogurts in the proper due date order. Are you kidding me? Where is everyone? How do they vanish and these 2 people live? Nothing suggests even the most remote possibility that this film's story could happen. The veil of fiction does not exist. You can see through the characters as being these extremely shallow individuals who are more concerned about fashion and lattes than most anything else. To wit, the only book mentioned, To Kill a Mockingbird, is at a grade 7 - 8 reading level and forced on people to read. How can this guy go hunting for anything when he cant even make a coffee properly? How could there even be animals to hunt for if all humans are gone? Did the animals live? If everyone is gone, with no bodies and no indication of anything in the film that would explain why ... well this is a non-film. Turn the volume off and use it as a way to see iceland from afar.

Jason RiceJune 27, 2017 5:19 AM

I disagree with you. I believe the author used the title as a context clue to add meaning to the film. Look up Bokeh and rewatch the movie. Stop looking for plot holes, be empathetic and ask why the characters would act the way they do.

juss.sayinJuly 12, 2017 3:57 AM

Agreed. Religion came up a bunch. She was obsessed with god abandoning her. Probably why it ended the way it did.

Goatman205July 26, 2017 2:47 AM

I want to know why the had to kill off the girl. And we never get an answer why are the people are gone. I did see, a cat and ponies. So the animals lived. You have to suspend belief here. Ending still sucked. I did speed thru the movie, way to much yaking.