It’s always nice when the end of the world can have some levity. Biosphere, from director Mel Eslyn, manages to mash up a post-apocalyptic story with a buddy comedy for a movie about two best pals who just so happen to be the last remaining people on the planet. It’s a high concept told at a small scale, with the entirety of the film taking place inside of an apartment-size biosphere home to lifelong friends Billy (Mark Duplass) and Ray (Sterling K. Brown). Their incredible chemistry propels the film forward, but it’s a major twist mid-way through that makes this strange, funny, and at times uncomfortable movie worth checking out.
We don’t know much about what actually happened to end the world. We do know that the movie appears to happen a few years after some kind of environmental collapse and that the world outside the sphere is bathed in perpetual darkness. But Billy and Ray are making the best of it. They run laps every morning, read Shakespeare and complex science books, and play a lot of Super Mario Bros. They survive thanks in part to a self-sustaining garden and fish tank that provide them with food. Or at least, they were self-sustaining until a mystery affliction sees the fish start dying out, leading to a crisis of sorts.
The early scenes in Biosphere can feel uncomfortably like the early days of the covid pandemic when everyone was just trying to keep busy and mildly productive by playing Animal Crossing and baking bread. It works primarily because of Duplass and Brown, who work so well together — which is a good thing since they’re the only two people you’ll see in the movie. But they do actually feel like lifelong friends, with all of the associated shorthands and baggage that entails. They fight and joke and argue about whose turn it is to check on the fish. Ray is the scientific genius who designed their self-sustaining home and always seems to maintain a sense of hope while shielding his bud from the worst of reality. Billy, meanwhile, is much more emotional and impulsive, and he also happens to be the American president who, it is heavily implied, had a big part in the world ending.
Things are going, well, not exactly good — it’s the end of the world, after all — but chugging along until the fish crisis, which sets off a particularly dramatic chain of events. I absolutely can’t and won’t spoil what the twist is, only to say that it allows the film to explore things like friendship, masculinity, and sexuality in especially unique ways. And Biosphere pushes on these ideas in all kinds of different directions; at times, it’s a gross-out comedy, other times heartfelt and poignant. There are some deadly serious moments that feel powerful and real, and also scenes where the pair debate the rules for masturbating in the sphere.
Biosphere doesn’t quite stick the landing — it tries to end on an open question, but it’s just a little too vague — but the journey there is well worth watching. It’s unfortunate that I can’t tell you why. But trust me: you might not want to spend the end of days with Ray and Billy, but a feature-length movie is just the right amount of time.
Biosphere hits theaters and on-demand services on July 7th.
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