Z for Zachariah Explained and Reviewed
you can watch z for zachariah in these streaming locations:
I bet 99% of you will come to this post to find out what the heck happened in the end and why it happened the way it did. once you get to netflix you probably turned it off and immediately opened google and said “google! explains what the hell happened?!” or something like that. I’ll get to that, but since the movie just hit theaters, I’m going to first encourage people who haven’t seen it yet to watch it… so we can discuss the ins and outs of the movie together. so yeah, stick with me, and we’ll get to that explanation of z for zachariah you’re so desperate for. be patient.
z summary for zachariah
And ever since Sundance, the world of film criticism has adored this little film and its nuanced acting, and its truly contemplative aesthetic. but since z for zachariah hit the public, something strange happened: there was a pretty big disparity between the rotten tomatoes score that critics give it and the one that the public gives it. 79% versus 57% last time I checked. why the huge difference? I’ll tell you why, it’s because the film is a head job, slow boiling, and the public doesn’t understand it, that’s why. but first, what is it?
Z for Zachariah OverviewThe location that Zachariah is set in is the south, maybe somewhere along the Appalachian Mountains maybe? But it’s in the hollows of the mountains that our movie is set, and it is against the protective cleft of these mountains that the last of humanity possibly has been protected. Something happened in the world to kill anything and everything. There is some sort of toxic dust that will make you very sick if you interact with it, and all water that comes from outside the valley will kill you pretty quickly.
ann lastre (margot robbie, who has been in a couple of really fantastic movies; wolf of wall street, focus and about time. but it will be her next two movies that will really establish her in the minds of cinema goers – with tarzan and suicide squad (in which she will play harley quinn) and i predict suicide squad will beat batman v. superman at the box office. i know, bold words.) her family (including her father, who was the pastor of the community, and his brother, who may have links to zachariah) and are now presumed dead. Ann had been looking at the calendar and hoping they’d come back, but she’s long since stopped. and her hope is over. In her mind, she is the last person on the planet.
but then everything in the movie changes when ann sees someone walking through the valley in a funny looking space suit. When the intruder removes his suit and begins to bathe in a stream that feeds from outside the valley, Ann realizes that he must act to save his life. From then on Ann spends her time farming, milking the cows and nursing Mr. loomis (played by chiwetel ejiofor) comes back to life.
The film’s tension is now palpable for obvious reasons. you don’t have to be einstein to realize that this pious woman, ann, who only wants her will to be done in her life, realizes that it’s probably her duty to have a child with mr. looms correct? I mean, what would you think if you were the last woman on earth? never mind the fact that mr. loomis is an older black man. Never mind the fact that the two of you are absolutely nothing alike in any way. The bottom line is that the world’s human population will end with you unless you have a child.
oh, and by the way, none of this is said openly. It’s obvious because the acting is so good. the sexual tension is inadvertently as thick as cement, and yet nothing is said. the eyes, the looks, the pauses, everything carries the weight of the situation. the words only speak of the possibility of creating a way to charge the generator through a waterfall at a certain distance. but it’s the acting that carries the beautiful subtext.
ah, and then on top of this sexual tension comes a new visitor, a miner, played by chris pine, named caleb. please don’t miss the fact that caleb is young. or that he too is a pious man from a family of parishioners. please don’t miss the fact that they are both white. because it will be based on these not unsubtle observations that the whole movie will be completely destabilized.
z for zachariah – the book
Now I’m going to start diving into some spoilers here as we discuss the book. If you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend you watch it before continuing. Immediately after seeing the movie I had to read the book. like, that same night. and I was very surprised that this book was available because I had never heard of it. but I was immediately struck by a series of extreme deviations in the book from the movie (or more appropriately, the movie from the book, or whatever).
The first, and probably the biggest, was that there are two people in the book and three in the movie. I mean, this is not insignificant. a 50% actor raise in any other movie’s actor budget would break the bank.
and i was also surprised to see that loomis and ann had a completely different relationship in the book. seemed more like a suspense/terror feeling because mr. loomis was almost evil. this first comes to light when we find out that he shot another scientist who wanted to use the radiation suit to control his family. we learn this during his delusional state as he recovers from radiation sickness. and he just goes downhill from there. after recovering mr. Loomis begins to tell Ann how to plant her crops and run her farm. Okay, he’s a scientist, but come on, dude! she’s been running the farm successfully without you!
better yet? One night Loomis tries to rape Ann. ann punches him and then runs away. but he comes back the next day and starts working on the farm again. but she stays away from the looms. I mean, they’re the last people alive. but then mr. Loomis takes fuel from the tractor and finally shoots her in the ankle when she was trying to get him to stay in the house. Ann then decides to steal the radiation suit and all of Loomis’ things and leave. Loomis chases her to the edge of the hot zone and she escapes into the radiation…she pulls down the curtain, pulls the lights up, according to the book.
where the movie deviates from the book is that there is no clear good guy or bad guy. caleb and ann sleep together and it causes all kinds of chaos between mr. loomis and caleb. And while the two of them are working, Loomis… very subtly, hints that Caleb’s life is in his hands. And then Caleb decides it’s probably best to order the suit and go ahead and find his own Eve to start over. no shots. there is no sequestration of gasoline from the tractor. the characters in the movie are actually almost too nice to each other. about the only real argument and discussion that ann and mr. Loomis has to do with whether to use the church as raw material for the waterwheel they need to build. and loomis is the one saying they shouldn’t build it!
Z for Zachariah Explained
So, if the book and the movie are so divergent, what can we take from the book to interpret the ending of the movie? I have several theories about it. I’ll walk you through both and then tell you what I think is really going on.
The film is 100% nuanced. we are given very little of the script. I know, because since then I have also read the script in an attempt to understand the film a little better. and there just isn’t much to go on with words alone. The acting from Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine is truly top notch and brings so much more to the film than just words.
z for zachariah’s theory 1 – dr. jekyll & Mr. hyde
looking as if the book only had one figure of adam, mr. loomis… so maybe caleb is mr. loomis’s alter ego… our mr. hyde if you want. I could go on mainly because all the action of the book could be lumped under Caleb’s banner. Caleb sleeps with Ann. Caleb takes the equipment and flees to the hot zone. The comparisons fall apart there, as Ann was the one to initiate the sex. and it was because of loomis that caleb runs for her. but seeing as there was only one character in the book and now there are two, it’s an idea worth discussing.
z for zachariah theory 2 – complete divergence
Probably one of the most logical theories is that the writer, Nissar Modi, who adapted the book into a screenplay, decided to take the screenplay in a totally different and more nuanced direction. In this theory, Modi ditched the evil in the character Loomis from the book. instead of a terrible adam-type character, he added caleb, and just followed the natural tension inherent in a love triangle, and allowed that to be his dramatic driver for the film. and while that makes natural sense, part of me just complains about this theory, which brings us to theory 3.
z for zachariah theory 3 – movie interrupted
my third theory about how the movie ended is that caleb’s visit was a precursor to the book. It was an event that was not discussed. And in the end, Ann is left in the kitchen, mourning Caleb’s departure because she knows the loom storm is coming. Right? she feels in her bones that he is going to start telling her how to farm. that he is going to demand that she live in the house and will eventually shoot her. The biggest flaw with this prospect of doom to come is that there is no indication that Loomis is that guy. and yet he is overflowing. you can see it in her eyes. right?
no, this theory doesn’t go far enough as many of you pointed out in the comments and gary who woke me up via email. so if you haven’t gone far enough, it’s pretty obvious what happened. ann is in the kitchen mourning caleb’s death, and the obvious brewing storm inherent in her from mr. deranged looms. he is there in her pushing the glass from the table. it’s there in her looking in the freezer to see if there’s still power and if loomis is still in control despite the “accident” on the waterwheel. she’s in loomis’s eyes before we cut. she is in caleb’s face before he fell to his death. why else can you explain that caleb won’t say goodbye? Loomis buries Caleb in the suit and abandons his car. and voila, she left with what she needed…
z for zachariah explained
Theories aside: I personally think it makes more sense that the strain in his eyes was there from the beginning of modi’s reading of the book, until the last moment it was acted out on screen. we see that ann failed loomis and ran into caleb’s arms the first moment she could. and i also think caleb’s death plays into the betrayals ann’s life has been plagued with over the years by her father, her brother (whom loomis killed) and now caleb. Caleb’s “exit” breaks her back… and Loomis knows he’ll do her bidding as long as he tells her a halfway believable betrayal story.
Caleb was a fellow believer. “The church is not holy, the church is holy only because of what you bring to it.” caleb was younger and also a fellow southerner. they got along well and really enjoyed each other. and when mr. loomis killed caleb, ruined any hope of sanity ann had. Isn’t it any wonder his name was ann cargo? and indeed, even if mr. loomis never shot ann or ordered her around, he beat her up and eventually killed caleb, which he needed most. he was his hope. and now he was gone.
I loved this movie. and yet I doubt that many will like it. three-person movies are never well received. they are too game-like for American audiences. and yet they are glorious in my mind. it reminds me of sils maria o tape in its tightness of scope and scale. the performance was simply delightful from start to finish. it was layered, nuanced, and fascinating. I personally love the idea of a dr. jekyll & Mr. hyde is passing or maybe it’s straight from the pages of the book? nah, loomis killed jacob…. he had to have. but hey… I’m open to hearing his theories about the movie. but I guarantee the first comment on this post will be: “you are an idiot… this movie sucks”. just look. until then!
Are you interested in seeing some more movies of the same style? don’t worry, i got you :
edited by, cy