Biosphere (Movie Review)

What happens when the last two people responsible for saving what’s left of humanity cannot agree over what the deal is with the Mario Bros.? They get Biosphere, a comedy drama with an apocalyptic twist. After nearly all human life is wiped out, the only survivors are former US President Billy (Mark Duplass: Safety Not Guaranteed 2012, Big Mouth series) and his scientific advisor and childhood friend Ray (Sterling K. Brown: Black Panther 2018, Waves 2019).

They live in a biosphere Ray designed, with just a few amenities to survive. Like a fish pond for breeding fish, except they lost their last female fish and chance of producing more food. That is, until one of the male fish shows signs of changing sex in a process called sequential hermaphroditism. It is not uncommon for fish to adapt like this in an all-male environment. But then Billy starts having some health issues that will test his friendship with Ray yet could save humanity in the long run.

Biosphere / IFC Films (2023)

Directed by Mel Eslyn (The One I Love 2014, Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off 2022), who also co-wrote the script with Duplass, the movie made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival 2022. Then IFC Films picked it up for distribution, releasing it on DVD and digital platforms on July 7, 2023.

So, how is it? Well, if anyone was looking for an original film outside superheroes, reboots, remakes and the like, Biosphere being a post-apocalyptic gender-bending science romp certainly stands out. If “romp” is the right word, as the movie treats Billy’s condition quite seriously.

There are gags to be had. They just tend to be in how the characters gel together, and Duplass and Brown gel very well. Their performances really make them seem like childhood friends with the way they connect, clash, and push each other’s buttons. They make the movie’s curious premise believable, entertaining, and touching, if a little crass (Billy holds a funeral for his…anatomy).

It is solid narratively too, as Billy’s progress coincides with the fish. With each change that happens, the characters reach a new mark to deal with. The way they reach their boundaries and test them makes for some intriguing storytelling. For example, progressive Democrat Ray is all excited over Billy’s changes from a scientific point of view, and from a belief in magic to some degree. Though once the topic of breeding comes up, he becomes less keen and has a hard time dealing with it. It mirrors Billy’s progress as a former Republican President who grows more accepting of his condition over time.

Biosphere / IFC Films (2023)

It is fine in the technical department too, if less engaging visually. The movie is a feature-length bottle show, meaning viewers have to get used to the same old set for the full 1 hour, 46 min runtime. There are some neat shots that aid the storytelling, like when the two leads have their fall-outs, or the gradually warmer lighting. But if the characters’ banter is not pulling viewers in, the biosphere grey interior and fish pond will not pick up the slack.

The soundtrack is certainly a choice too. The movie’s big moments are punctuated by a capella vocal sounds, which works at backing the movie’s surreal nature. Though it is still harder on the ears than the few full-on songs that appear later.

Nonetheless, Biosphere is an intriguing watch that shows how blurry the lines between sex, sexuality and gender can be, and does it with charm thanks to Duplass and Brown’s performances. It is perhaps drier than other pieces of LGBTQ+ cinema, but it is an authentic, sweet, and engaging part of it. Thus, for these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives this film 4 out of 5 stars.

Biosphere / IFC Films (2023)

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