Alice Woodard (Emily Beecham) is a single mother – and a bioengineering botanist designing a plant that emits pollen to bring joy in humans. (Yeah, right.) Instead, in this slow-burning horror flick from Austrian director Jessica Hausner, the plant causes insidiously dangerous side effects in the people around Alice and in one poor, accidentally abandoned dog.
What unfolds is a commentary on any number of things: humanity’s inclination to ignore the warning signs about artificially influencing ourselves (which could be about drugs), the strange way that we allow ourselves to be manipulated within the work place, the dichotomy between being the parents/spouses/friends we want to be and what we actually are, and the failure of our educated intellect to confront the quiet desperation that too often dictates our frantic lives.
While I found the film utterly miserable to watch, between its slow grind and its highly annoying buzzing score (like a drone or mosquito in your ear periodically), it was also a wickedly devious and well plotted idea from Hausner. It identifies so clearly many of our societal issues and flaws, while doing so with the minimalist of cast or dialogue and the focus on … a little plant.
Other, more horror-centric reviewers will recall other films that this film clearly serves homage to but I will focus instead on this: we all have holes in our lives, our hearts, our souls that are meant for specific things – love, God, family, calling, etc. But too often we fail to make room for those things and instead try to artificially fill them with a drug, an app, a hobby, more work. Doing so stunts our growth, and keeps us from being who we’re meant to be, while society and trending culture cheer us on down a slippery slope farther away from where we’re meant to be.