Arcadian (2024)

by | Apr 22, 2024 | Movie Reviews, New In Theaters | 0 comments

Arcadian is a touching and entertaining family survival story set at the end of the world where terrifying creatures rule the night. As we often see during the end of the world, civilization and morality collapse as any remaining survivors fight to protect what little they have to keep themselves alive. When you’re protecting a family, the stakes are even higher as managing more than one person always proves to be difficult in any setting. Exploring those different family dynamics in this heightened setting makes for a frustratingly real portrayal of how I imagine most families would deal with looking out for one another.

Arcadian

Some years after terrifying creatures invaded Earth and began wiping out the population, Paul (Nicolas Cage) and his twin sons Joseph (Jaeden Martell) and Thomas (Maxwell Jenkins) fight every night to stay alive. During the day they forage for materials to better fortify their home and during the evenings they must board up inside because the creatures come out to hunt at night. With both boys in their teens now, Paul finds it increasingly hard to protect them as they both struggle with being confined to the lives they lead on their property.

Nicolas Cage has quietly built an incredibly strong resume on the independent film front, turning in some outstanding performances in peculiar projects. His acting style has felt far more refined and emotionally engaging, as is the case with his performance in Arcadian. As Paul grapples with how to handle giving his sons the freedom they need to find who they really are, we see Cage sink into the role and become consumed with the need to keep them safe. As a father, he’s rightfully stern with the boys because he knows the world they’re living in will consume them if they slip up even once, though you can tell he doesn’t love being the bad guy. Cage takes a bit of a backseat to the younger leading men, but his presence is felt throughout the film and brings so much comfort to both the audience and the boys.

Having angsty twin teen brothers at the end of the world makes for a brilliant setup in the sense that you already have an underlying conflict that could put both boys in harm’s way. While Martell’s Joseph is a more scientifically minded homebody, Jenkin’s Thomas is far more concerned with finishing his chores and making his way to a neighboring farm to help them until the suns sets. While they each have a duty to their family, Thomas is far less concerned with being home and this creates an issue that presents a lot of emotional complications that he wrestles with. All the while Joseph is tinkering away with contraptions that will hopefully help the family, but also keep him in isolation and misunderstood by most.

It’s quite enjoyable, if not also a bit scary, to watch both boys venture off on their own and start to do things for themselves for a change. Though he goes alone, Joseph is happy to be exploring further and finding new material and inspiration for his contraptions at home. As we spend more time on the neighboring farm we’re exposed to a lovely family and farm staff who radiate warmth and always have something for Thomas to do. It doesn’t hurt that their daughter Charlotte (Sadie Soverall) enjoys Thomas’ company as well and it’s beautiful to watch these young people try to find a connection in a time that doesn’t inspire much other than fear. Both Soverall and Jenkin’s play their roles so well and completely draw you in with their tender moments and fits of laughter.

Arcadian shows that in a post A Quiet Place world, it’s easy to point at newer monster survival films and say they’re in a similar vein, but this genre has been around forever and it’s how each filmmaker tackles it that helps set each film apart. What helps set Arcadian apart, aside from a stellar choice to put Nicolas Cage at the end of the world, is a focus on family and the stresses they naturally feel that start to affect their decision-making skills. With more focus on the characters and less attention given to the monsters, this film succeeds in creating a gripping drama that’s full of heart.

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