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.
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.