If you prefer your End Times tales to be more thoughtful and less gory, you might want to visit this quiet corner of the post-apocalyptic world. The story takes place in an unidentified part of the United States, which has been contaminated by some form of deadly radiation. But through some geographic quirk, one rural valley has been spared, and in it lives a young woman named Ann (Margot Robbie) and her dog. All alone, until the day she comes across another survivor, a former engineer named John (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Still later, another man (Chris Pine) finds the valley.
Craig Zobel’s drama is adapted from the eponymous 1970s sci-fi novel, and he brings to it some of the pervasive unease that marked his earlier feature, Compliance. But the film defies most genre expectations, at least in execution; viewers will still find this feature a tense experience.
The film takes its title from a Bible-themed ABCs book, and religion and faith play a large role in the story. There’s a direct conflict between science and faith concerning a religious building, as well as an exploration of some of faith’s trickier questions: How critical are its physical manifestations; what dire circumstances absolve the believer; and can there even be hope?
None of these questions is necessarily discussed out loud, but they are there for the pondering, as these three people sort out how to keep living, and how to live with each other. It is a provocative work, both optimistic and pessimistic about humanity.