I can’t remember the last time a film threw me for a loop like Biosphere did. Independent cinema periodically threatens to come up with something as original as this, but it rarely happens. When a movie zigs as much as this one does from the presumed zag, it’s either going to fail spectacularly or soar magically. For me? This is decidedly the latter and one of my favorite things so far in 2023.
Biosphere consistently surprises you, while never feeling like it’s cheating. You may think that what’s going on is ridiculous, but it feels right and natural for this particular story. Considering what it’s doing, that’s not nothing, either. Throw in some surprising humor and a pair of spot-on performances? That’s a recipe for an indie success.
In the not-too-distant future, the only human beings left on Earth are Billy (Mark Duplass) and Ray (Sterling K. Brown). Billy was, once upon a time, the President of the United States, with Ray his best friend and closest advisor. The latter built a biosphere capable of sustaining life to support the former, who may well have made decisions that doomed humanity. They spend their days exercising, playing games, watching movies, and playfully bickering. A tank of fish provides their sustenance, while Ray’s ingenuity tackles any problems that arise. Well, at least until a situation presents itself.
When they realize that they’ve accidentally eaten the last female fish, the pair figure they’re doomed. Except…life finds a way. To say more about what happens next would spoil a massive surprise and quite the shockingly fun twist, but it comes early enough in the proceedings that much of the movie is about its aftermath. So, just trust me that you’ll want to see this one.
Mark Duplass and Sterling K. Brown are in peak form here. Both hit comedic and dramatic beats that could easily seem like whiplash but never do. The script is quite good, as you’ll find out below, but Brown and Duplass act the hell out of it as well. Their evolving chemistry is pinpoint as well. They’re the only actors in the movie and manage to never make you think about it. This is one of the best buddy pairings in some time.
Filmmaker Mel Eslyn helms the flick, while co-writing the screenplay with Duplass. In many ways, this feels indebted to the work he did with Lynn Shelton. It has a Humpday vibe to it, at least in broad strokes. Eslyn’s direction is solid and steady, letting her small cast lead the way. Not only does she coax terrific performances out of Brown and Duplass, the script she penned with the latter is terrific. Balancing the humor and the almost horror of it all, they put forward a full meal, even in a quaint little package.
Biosphere has got way more up its sleeve than you might be expecting. The film works best the less you know going in, so trust me that it’s worth seeing. It’s funny, deep, and a total surprise, in more ways than one. Give it a shot and you can thank me later…