Review by Sean Boelman
The one thing that can be said about cerebral sci-fi as a genre is that it is typically consistent in its beauty. Nicholas Ashe Bateman’s The Wanting Mare is no exception to that rule, offering an abundant amount of striking and gorgeous images, even if they don’t build into a narrative that is entirely satisfying or developed.
The film follows two lovers who seek to escape the confines of a society that is seemingly inescapable, hoping that their love is powerful enough to overcome the forces that threaten to tear them apart. It’s an ambitious movie in many ways, but narratively, it’s a lot more conventional and shallow than it would have you believe.
It’s clear from the very beginning that Bateman wants his film to tell an intimate story on an epic scale, but he struggles to find the right balance between the two. More often than not, scenes feel like one or the other — either a small, character-driven scene or a grand, operatic one — and as a result, it’s hard to figure out where the emotional connection is supposed to originate.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the movie is the fact that the film tries to do too much in its less than ninety minute runtime. Bateman succeeds in making his world feel lived in, but there’s still a lot more to be explored. Additionally, the movie spends more time on the common elements of this world rather than the things that make it truly unique.
That said, the single biggest issue with the film is the character development. Because we are dealing with so many characters over such a long period of time, it’s hard to get invested in any of their arcs. Even the central love story feels telegraphed in a way that is frequently less than satisfying.
The acting in the movie isn’t much better, but this seems to be more an issue of unconfident directing than the actors’ skills. Bateman’s investment in the visual and technical aspects of the film pays off in droves, but this also comes at the expense of the performances which are highly inconsistent and could have used more of a guiding hand.
Still, the fantastic visuals are more than enough to recommend this movie. Any given frame in the film could be a work of art thanks to exquisite framing and an eye for designing the shot. And given Bateman’s background in visual effects work, the CGI in the movie is much stronger than average for an independent genre picture.
The Wanting Mare has some really strong elements working for it, but the script needed a bit more focus for it to be an effective sci-fi epic. However, filmmaker Nicholas Ashe Bateman’s talent is obvious, and it will be exciting to see what vision he brings to the screen next.
The Wanting Mare hits VOD on February 5.
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