June 15, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

‘The Wanting Mare’ review: Mythic land defies genre

It’s hard to find a word that best describes the genre-defying “The Wanting Mare,” except for maybe “impressive.” Not quite science-fiction — at least not in any conventionally pulpy way — this arty post-apocalyptic mood piece is mostly a triumph of DIY persistence for the writer-director Nicholas Ashe Bateman, who reportedly spent five years working on the digital effects to make a sparse set look like an entire ruined world.

Bateman only hints at where and when we are. We’re told at the start that in the land of Anmaere, there’s a swelteringly hot, crime-ridden city called Whithren, where once a year an enormous cargo ship sends some of the local wild horses across the water to a much colder and apparently less dangerous continent. Residents of Whithren spend much of their time trying to figure out a way to sail away.

One of the people yearning to get out is Moira (Jordan Monaghan), whose mother died in childbirth after gifting her — or perhaps cursing her — with a recurring dream of how their society fell. Just when Moira is at the peak of her despair, she meets a shady character named Lawrence (Josh Clark), who tries to figure out how to get her a ticket on the big boat.

“The Wanting Mare” is set across decades, with multiple actors playing the leads (Christine Kellogg-Darrin plays an older Moira). The performances are so muted and the plotting so slight that some viewers may check out early. This movie isn’t exactly “The Hunger Games.”

But it’s remarkable how fully fleshed out Bateman’s hell-scape is, given that much of this movie was shot in an empty storage facility. There’s something haunting and poetic too about the simplicity of this story, which is primarily about how people find reasons to persevere once they find a companion. It must be true what they say: Misery loves company.

‘The Wanting Mare’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing: Starts Feb. 5, Laemmle Virtual Cinema; also on VOD and in limited release where theaters are open