Before we begin this review, we want to clarify that watching Biosphere is enhanced by knowing little. So, if readers have yet to see the film, it might be worth watching first.
Many films have explored the boundaries of how we perceive relationships. Biosphere accomplishes a similar dynamic, offering a sci-fi dystopian story as a trojan horse to speak about something more significant.
The film has many comedic elements, but at its core is a sincere exploration of connection. The scope of this theme is boundless and can include those across numerous spectrums.
Directed and co-written by Mel Eslyn, Biosphere centers on Ray (Sterling K. Brown), a scientist detailing, studying, and keeping things together inside a small biosphere. He shares the inhabitant with Billy (Mark Duplass), who is said to be the former President of the now-extinct world. They live together as roommates inside this small dwelling, growing plants, taking morning runs, and playing video games such as Mario.
But as they live out their existence within the confines of the Biosphere, changes begin to happen around the ecosystem. The world around them begins to evolve in hilarious ways. Some of these changes benefit their survival, while other changes force new questions about what their daily lives are forming into.
As the environment begins to bend, the film starts to dive into various themes surrounding companionship. It’s an uncomfortable aspect of being a man trying to be vulnerable with other men. Most males are afraid of showing affection for each other, which breeds an environment of male toxicity as society’s expectations require toughness. Moonlight handled some of these themes more gracefully.
Testing the audience
The script, written by director Mel Eslyn and co-written by Mark Duplass, confidently pushes the viewer into uncomfortable places, daring the audience to open their minds about companionship. And as it does so, it hinges these uncomfortable concepts on the backdrop of a story involving a magic trick, a trick that thrives the discussion of believing in the bizarre and the extraordinary.
Brown and Duplass have tremendous chemistry and carry the film effortlessly. Biosphere’s screenplay places a lot of weight on both Brown and Duplass’s shoulders to harbor the story with nothing but their dialogue and performances. Duplass shines best in small dialogue-driven films, such as The One I Love. The same is true with Biosphere. The intimate approach gets additionally difficult by adding sequences of awkward character moments that require a lot from them as actors. Only a few A-list performers would be willing to take the creative leaps as both men do in this movie.
Biosphere is highly bold in conception. The film possesses a massive story progression that we cannot discuss in detail. However, the moment itself will ignite a lot of conversation. The core of it is meant to be challenging and might have the viewer asking themselves why they feel challenged by it.
The concept in question has the flavor of a Twilight Zone episode, where it gives the viewer a simple premise, throws in something thoughtfully bizarre, and leaves the viewer with something to ponder as the credits roll. Add Rod Serling’s voice to the beginning and end, and it’s a trip to another dimension riddled with subtext.
But similar to some episodes of The Twilight Zone (or Black Mirror), there is more to admire here than to adore. For all its bravery and willingness to push the barrier in unexpected places, Biosphere feels slightly undercooked. It’s a fine meal and still safe to eat, but if the chef seasoned it some more and left it on the burner five minutes longer, all of these ambitious ideas might have landed harder.
The critique is with good intent, especially as someone who profoundly admires Duplass. His love for indie filmmaking shines in every project. Here, his passion remains transparent on paper and as a performer. Director Mel Eslyn also served as a producer on The One I Love, which is easily one of the best indie films of the last decade.
But unlike The One I Love, the third act of Biosphere leaves much to be desired after an audacious setup. For a massive swing of a premise, the final moments could have gone further.
Biosphere is flawed but commendable
Biosphere falls short of perfection, but there is nothing like this movie. While it does not take full advantage of its daring concept, Biosphere is a bold exploration of friendship, affection, and relationships within male connections (and beyond). Discussing male vulnerability and tender relationships between men in this format is brave and worthy of admiration.
Regardless of its minor shortcomings, this writer will guarantee that Biosphere is an unforgettable experience. A reaction will result while watching this movie. Some will get angry, others will laugh, some might leave the room, and others might want to talk about it for hours. Regardless of the response, the cast and crew accomplished their mission.
Biosphere is in theaters and Video on Demand on July 7.