Movie Review: Iceland’s a pretty place for the World’s End in “Bokeh”

Bokeh-movie

When Rod Serling wanted to sell his concept for “The Twilight Zone” to CBS, he gambled his hopes on a can’t-miss concept —  The Last (Person) on Earth.

That TV pilot, “Where is Everybody?” starred Earl Holliman as a man who wakes up in a small town, where coffee’s brewing at the diner, he can smells eggs on the griddle, but all his shouts back to the kitchen go unanswered. As does the payphone he hears ringing.

His world has been emptied in a flash. It’s ch”It Follows”illing, and it has been ever since, in endless variations on other “Twilight Zones,” in zombie apocalypse movies, “I Am Legend,” and so on.

But imagine that scenario in one of the most scenic places on Earth. That’s “Bokeh,” an indie film starring Maika Monroe of “It Follows” and Matt O’Leary (of such indie films as “Drones” and “Brick”). They play a hip young couple, enjoying a stay in Iceland.

And one morning, they wake up and the hotel’s promised continental breakfast isn’t there. The cafes, pubs and restaurants they’ve frequented are open, but nobody’s taken the chairs off the tables from the clean-up the night before.

The streets of Rekjavik are empty. Cars sit abandoned in the streets.

Our first thought is theirs. Where’s Kirk Cameron? “Is this The Rapture?”

No replies to their emails, no news on TV (other channels are still on, as is Iceland’s aut0-pilot geothermal power grid), there’s no one in sight.

What follows is a generic, scenic but generally humdrum take on the stress this situation puts on their relationship. Sure, there are no lines at the glaciers, the waterfalls, the market they raid for food, the hot springs where they’re now free to skinny dip. But loneliness is a heavy weight, and fear of utter solitude (an accident, or suicidal despair killing one and leaving the other alone) frazzles each’s nerves.

There are hints of the ironic comic possibilities in the material, something Rod Serling went on to explore in later “Twilight Zones” — the bookworm who has “Time Enough at Last” to read once his pesky boss, and every other nuisance person in his life and the world disappears. Those turn up in Riley’s logical/serio-comic reasoning. No, there’s no more waiting in lines. Ever.

“If it were a plague, where are all the bodies?” he asks, “If it’s aliens, where are the ships?”

But as they struggle with existential angst of it all, the morality of what they do next (Were they “chosen?”), the grim consequences of the fact that no one they know and love is still on Earth and the theological possibilities of this dilemma, Riley looks for distractions — finishing the vacation, for instance, seeing the sights.

But “You can’t just change the scenery and expect me to smile,” Jenai (Monroe) complains.

Writer-directors Geoffrey Orthwein and Andrew Sullivan had a solid concept and a great setting, but not much else. And it’s not like they invented the genre.

At least the players give us a little to latch onto, coping as reasonably and realistically with this unexplained catastrophe (the title, “Bokeh,” is a photography term having to do with blurred images) as one might expect. Monroe delivers a somewhat interesting breakdown, and O’Leary gets across Riley’s sense of responsibility, even though we get the impression they haven’t dated all that long.

It’s lovely, but bleak. And like the world they’re no longer condemned to tour while standing in line, it’s just too empty to be rewarding, or much fun.

2stars1

MPAA Rating: unrated, limited nudity

Cast: Maika Monroe, Matt O’Leary

Credits:Written and directed by Geoffrey Orthwein, Andrew Sullivan. A Screen Media release.

Running time: 1:31

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