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IO from Netflix – review

I caught IO on Netflix the other night and quite liked it. It’s a pensive and very intimate movie with only three on-screen characters and one of those is only in flashback. For most of the movie, it’s pretty depressing, though there are hopeful notes.

The plot: we have poisoned the earth until it is uninhabitable. Humanity flees the earth for IO and in the outer planets, develop some sort of star drive that will allow us to travel to other stars in 10 years. As the audience, we never leave earth, just like our protagonist, Sam Walden, the daughter of a doctor who was famous for environmental science. Alone, isolated in a high observatory outside of the contaminated zone, our protagonist makes forays into the zone to conduct experiments and lives a monastic life of thought, contemplation. She conducts a long distance relationship – really long distance, from the Earth to IO – with a man who has immigrated away from earth, giving ample opportunities for voice overs.

The actress, Margaret Qualley, gives a luminous and large-eyed performance – I quite liked her – you could see the character thinking, which I’ve always found as a highwater mark for television and film performances. Being beautiful (but isn’t every person that appears on screen beautiful, really?) doesn’t hurt.

Her labors are interrupted by the arrival of Micah, played by Anthony Mackie in a high altitude helium balloon, another survivor in this soft-apocalypse. The plot unfolds from there.

IO is very much like a three-person play and worth your time if you like intimate dramas. If there are any critiques I could levy at the film, it would be that Anthony Mackie tends to declaim his lines as if he truly were on the stage and needs to project to get to the people in the back rows, but that’s a very small gripe. As with most apocalyptic survival stories, this movie gives you a cocoon of domesticity powered by solar panels and windmills and then interrupts it but don’t expect any action sequences.

I was strongly reminded of Caitlin Starling’s THE LUMINOUS DEAD in that IO possessed a sf premise but remained tight and intimate.

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