TIFF 2022: Biosphere Review – That Shelf

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Life, as Jeff Goldblum says, finds a way.

Director Mel Eslyn biosphere was a surprisingly late addition to the TIFF line-up just days before the official start of this year’s festival. With just two public screenings, audiences have been asked, no, begged not to divulge any plot details, as it turns out it’s a huge spoiler just to describe what the film is about.

Armed with just a vague description via TIFF, biosphere Allegedly follows Ray and Billy, the last two men alive (Sterling K. Brown and Mark Duplass) who, faced with a crisis that threatens their survival in a bio-dome, must adapt and evolve to ensure the survival of humanity to back up.

Giving away anything beyond that simple premise would do any potential viewer a disservice. After watching thousands of movies, it’s not often I can say I’ve been genuinely surprised at the twists and turns this story takes. If there’s something to say Biosphere, It’s sure to surprise viewers with every unexpected twist.

To say the script itself was a surprise would be a complete understatement. Co-written by Duplass and Eslyn, biosphere gives the film’s only actors a lot to do. This is a story that, for all its lo-fi sci-fi surprises, is frighteningly delicate, funny, intelligent, and complex. However, at just under two hours (and to paraphrase critic Brian Tallerico’s review), the film takes up an idea best suited for an episode of black mirror and stretches it too thin for its feature-length run. There are only so many directions a story about two men living in a bio-dome and dealing with a single life-changing event can go and perhaps would have served best in the constraints of a single TV episode.

Eslyn, making her directorial debut with her biosphere has a history with Mark and Jay Duplass. Her production company president, Eslyn, has served as a producer on a number of her projects, including The One I Love, Creep 2, Outside In, Blue Jay and paddleton, among other. She directs well, choreographing Billy and Ray’s life in the dome without making it feel claustrophobic or soulless.

In a film where every decision is accompanied by an intellectual conversation between the two characters, biosphere sometimes feels like a play with its unique setting. It’s fairly easy to imagine these conversations taking place between two actors on a stage as they explore concepts of humanity, gender roles, identity, and more without feeling preachy or judgmental.

With little else to detract from their performances in the film, Duplass and Brown’s on-screen chemistry is evident. A pandemic production whose cast literally worked in a bubble, the actors work seamlessly together to make their relationship fully believable after an indiscriminate number of years inside the dome.

I’m not sure if though biosphere is a resounding success, it is certainly a one-of-a-kind film that will stay in your memory and make you think long after you have seen it. However, the film is currently without distribution, so it is unclear when biosphere is seen by the audience.

biosphere shown as part of TIFF 2022, which ran September 8-18. More information about the festival can be found here.

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