By David Dent
Not to be confused with the famous antacid tablet (that was ‘Setlers’ anyway) this is the first feature from the impressively named Wyatt Rockefeller, whose other claims to fame is that he worked on President Obama’s first Presidential campaign and is descended from those Rockefellas.
Reza (Jonny Lee Miller), his wife Ilsa (Sofia Boutella) and their daughter Remy (Brooklynn Prince, later Nell Tiger Free), together with a squat robot named ‘Steve’ and a litter of pigs, live on a farmstead in a remote part of Mars – actually it’s all pretty remote. There’s a suggestion that Earth has declined, at some point in the past forcing its population to leave the planet. Things are pretty hard and Remy is fiercely protected from the outside by her parents; a position justified when the family wake up one morning to find a single word – Leave – painted on their windows in what could be blood.
The arrival of an armed stranger called Jerry (Ismael Cruz Cordova) on the scene rapidly disrupts the family setup; Reza is killed, and the interloper claims that the site in which mother and daughter are living once belonged to him, demanding ownership. An uneasy alliance develops between the three of them, which eventually turns into tragedy.
‘Settlers’ is, on the surface, a homesteading Western in space (well specifically on Mars). It’s at times a tough watch; the claustrophobic atmosphere and small cast keep things frighteningly self-contained. There are no ‘Planet of the Apes’ type reveals or M. Night Shyamalan twists, and the only explanation offered in the movie is around people’s ability to breathe freely on the planet.
The film is perhaps too tonally one dimensional to really engage, and slightly overlong too (the middle section drags a bit). However it’s sumptuously filmed, with the South African desert standing in for the Red Planet, and both actors playing Remy are terrific in their roles. But fair warning; it’s a bit of a downer.
SETTLERS is available to watch now in the UK and Ireland on iTunes, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, Google/YouTube, Microsoft