A Reckoning Review
Post-Apocalyptic Robinson Crusoe
The end of the world has captivated minds for perhaps most of the 20th century. It’s taken on different visions as to what it would look like to see everything that humanity has gained to be wiped away in the blink of an eye When people think of a post-apocalyptic film, the classics such as Mad Max, Waterworld, and Book of Eli usually come to mind. They are films full of baddies and action, daring chases, and great actors. What happens, though, when they are no bad guys? In fact, there's no one there except you.
Andrew Barker's directorial debut A Reckoning does just that. It explores the human mind by stripping everything that makes up the basis of human interaction. Think I Am Legend without Sam or zombies. What would you do? The number one thing humans need is contact with other humans and that's what Leslie Simpson (Dog Soldiers) does as the lead actor.
Simpson's portrayal of the protagonist (who remains unnamed) is strikingly haunting and emphatic as far as showing what someone left behind as the only person alive. He gives himself a purpose by going to a class of straw-children to teach them. Simpson's character works at staying sane but shows it can only last so long before the mind starts failing.
A perfect example would be when Simpson is in the middle of instructing when a crumpled up piece of paper is thrown at him. It harmlessly strikes his chest and he questions the straw class as to who threw it. Obviously no one because he is the only one present! It only shows how far the human mind can deteriorate.
A Reckoning depicts a world that looks as though it came from a war-torn region, and Simpson depicts a particular war in Man vs. Self. A dark and grisly battle is shown in the eyes and body of the literal last man on Earth, as he attempts to hold on to the only thing that will keep him alive: his sanity.
This becomes his greatest battle as he continues to keep his habits continuous. As the character played by Simpson is continually saying, “Habit is the last to go.” It is also an exploration of mental illness as the role of Simpson takes a dark turn when he questions whether he is both the warden and inmate of his mind.
The world that he has created with the straw figures begins to collapse as his habits deteriorate and his will to live becomes fleeting. As that mental breakdown occurs, he virtually destroys the very world he has created to keep his sanity, almost as a way to let himself go. Go where? When his desire to love and be loved is crushed, he finally lets everything go and the last thing to go is the habits he has created.
In the current state of the world, this film has a haunting relevance. Locked away in quarantine, many are alone with their own thoughts, social media, and entertainment accounts. They create their own worlds, but what happens when it all comes crashing down with the bitter taste of reality? David Barker, writer and director, calls this “my lament for our species, a tale of how the fabric of our day to day existence, the trivialities that we take for granted, could (and possibly would) haunt us in a world emptied”. This is vividly portrayed in that slow mental decay before Simpson witnesses his reality burst into flame.
A Reckoning was released in 2010 and is available for rental or purchase on Amazon Prime Video with more releases on video-on-demand platforms expected.