In theaters and on demand July 23
Reza (Johnny Lee Miller), Ilsa (Sofia Boutella) and their daughter Remmy (Brooklyn Prince) are colonists on mars. Their subsistence is meager in the unforgiving, arid environment. Stories of Earth and stargazing are regular activities, yet Reza and Ilsa seem to hold something within themselves – a secret.
One morning, Remmy discovers a message written on their window – “Leave.”
Soon after, this family’s existence will be challenged as a sobering truth is revealed and survival takes on a different face.
“Settlers” is a small film with an independent film feel – leaving more questions than answers. It takes place within a small boundary – the family compound and one other area and continues to keep this small with a cast of four. This all plays into the remote, isolated feel that these colonists are supposed to feel, however, viewers will also feel disconnected from the characters – an isolation we don’t want.
Cute Remmy is an adolescent brought into an alien world. She is bright-eyed and vulnerable because she doesn’t realize that her parents have done what they have to do to survive – now those decisions have come back to haunt them.
Writer/director Wyatt Rockefeller creates a story that is intriguing, yet, not quite satisfying. Skillfully filmed, the alien environment is engaging, interesting and creates just enough alien feel to keep viewers off balance, but not enough to be distracted.
Where Rockefeller stumbles is with the narrative. In trying to reveal the truth in small moments, he losses us by not maintaining tension. The set up is well done showing a loving family raising their little girl, then an interloper shatters that safety with a message scrawled in blood. The latter half of the film falls short in maintaining a strong narrative as this story morphs into a creepy tale waffling between survival and creepy sexuality.
This film takes Remmy’s perspective, but that view is devoid of distinct definition. Who is she? Who does she become as she matures? That lack of distinction permeates the second half of the film as Remmy interacts with Jerry (Ismael Cruz Cordova) the interloper.
The cast gives good performances, but are not given enough to knock this film out of the park.
“Settlers” settles for mediocrity as this potentially memorable film falls short of its orbit.