Apocalypse Child

| April 19, 2017

Ford (Sid Lucero) has lived his entire life hearing the same stories about his father.  His mother tells him that she was 14 when the cast and crew of Apocalypse Now came to the Philippines to make their movie and that one night the director, Francis Ford Coppola, invited her back to his tent where they had sex and she got pregnant.  Now, Ford works as a surfing instructor, getting drunk and high with his friends, having sex with tourists, and generally living a carefree existence.  Things get a little more complicated when Ford’s mother reaches out to Coppola’s lawyers demanding that he acknowledge his paternity of Ford.

The premise for Apocalypse Child is not a bad one.  I just wish the film had done anything with it.  Ford and his friends are not compelling characters.  They’re boringly apathetic in everything they do, and even a romance between Ford and his friend’s fiancé doesn’t seem to create any tension or conflict between any of the characters.  The film even has the cliché of justifying the girl’s infidelity by having her fiancé also be unfaithful, which to me just makes them both despicable characters, along with Ford.

Maybe the only standout performance is Annicka Dolonius, who plays Fiona, who is Ford’s girlfriend in the beginning of the film.  Fiona isn’t given much to do, but she’s the only person in the film who has a human reaction to being manipulated and cheated on.  She’s passionate and free, but with genuine wants that she pursues and frustrations to overcome, unlike everyone else who just floats through this movie without a care in the world.  I also find it interesting that Fiona speaks English 99% of the time with all of the other characters mostly speaking what I assume is Filipino with some English spliced in.  At first, I was trying to figure out the metaphor of this choice, having Fiona speak English while being perfectly understood by the other characters and being able to perfectly understand everyone else.  On top of that, even though Fiona is speaking perfect English, her lines are still subtitled.  I realize that sometimes filmmakers will do this in a bilingual film so the audience doesn’t get lost when we switch languages, but in this case it just feels like maybe the filmmakers think the audience is too stupid to keep up, and it makes the film overall feel pretentious and condescending.

There’s not much to respond to here.  Secrets get revealed and there are some interesting sexual dynamics at play, but everything ultimately falls flat in the end, and the audience is left wondering what the point is.  There’s no thematic reason for Ford to possibly be the Coppola’s son; that idea of identity never seems to phase him on any level.  My best guess is the filmmakers wanted to make something more representative of the real world, where things happen without thematic reasons or structure, but to me, in fiction, that just feels lazy.

Available now on DVD from Candy Factory Films.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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