Grimmfest: Vesper (2022)

Director: Kristina Buozyte, Bruno Samper

Running Time: 113 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Raffiella Chapman, Eddie Marsan, Rosy McEwen, Richard Brake

For their latest film, directors Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper depict a dangerous Earth after the collapse of its ecosystem. Thirteen-year-old Vesper (Raffiella Chapman) struggles to survive with her paralyzed father, Darius (Richard Brake), while trying to find a cure with her bio-hacking abilities. When Vesper finds the mysterious Camellia (Rosy McEwen) alone after a crash, she agrees to help find her missing companion in exchange for safe passage.

Adapting a screenplay co-written with Brian Clark, directors Buozyte and Samper depict a bleak fantasy with real-life parallels. Set on a world ravaged by the mistreatment of nature, people struggle to even eat courtesy of an unfair system weighted against those who aren't wealthy, preferring a work-force who will follow their orders without defiance. Central to this story in a harsh world where people do whatever possible to survive, the titular character just wants to ensure her loved ones survive. Chapman terrifically portrays Vesper, conveying the fear when she's in dangerous company as effortlessly as the wonder when she's discovering new things.

Her priority is her ill father, who can speak and see the outside world through a remotely controlled drone. While spending the film confined to a bed, Brake conveys such volume and empathy through his voice and eyes while eschewing his usual villainous role. By contrast, his on-screen brother Jonas is a brutal leader that's effectively played by a menacing Eddie Marsan. Facing danger from him is Cameillia, a newcomer wonderfully played by McEwan. She forms a bond with Vesper, as seen in a nice moment where Vesper is taught animal noises, and highlights the effective relationships these characters each hold with the lead.

While much of the expository dialogue can feel clunky, there's a great realization of this world and the wildlife which populates it. It surrounds the unpolished action, as people scramble to get the upper hand courtesy of whatever they can find, and the horrifying instances showing life lost in this unforgiving world. Adding to the experience is the terrific sound design, with a highlight being the masked breathing of malicious forces in pursuit. Some elements could've used more time, particularly Vesper's absent mother that left to become a junk-collecting pilgrim, yet it adds to a tremendously crafted story in a fantastical world with uncomfortable familiarity.

Vesper made its UK Premiere at Grimmfest, and is available on Digital Download now.