Written by: Daniel Hadley
Director: Roxy Shih
Cast: Jessica Roth, Anne Winters, Michael Nardelli, Cokey Falkow, Chloe Beth Jones
In the aftermath of an apocalyptic pathogen that has wiped out most of mankind, three sisters have survived alone for over ten years on a ranch built by their survivalist father. With ample supplies of both food and water they are rightfully very protective of their land, their food and each other.
The movie opens to an elderly man who appears to be in search of water, only to be greeted with the barrel of a rifle before he is gunned down after he quite rightly gets a tad agitated, having wandered the dessert for god knows long only to be greeted with gun at the first sign of civilisation, it might lead to one growing a little shirty.
Leave or die seems to be the only option given to outsiders, apparently that’s the world these girls inhabit, or is it? The biggest failing of The Tribe is that it never takes time to set up its apocalyptic setting, are all other humans a threat, has it come to the kind of kill or be killed world we have seen in the likes of the Walking Dead or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road? Well the movie never takes the time to explore that and it spends equally less time exploring its main characters.
Sarah (Anne Winters) is the middle sister, She’s very hostile to outsiders and views the world through cynical eyes, then there is Jenny (Jessica Rothe) the oldest of the three. The character’s ages are never specified but I’d place her somewhere in her early twenties. At first Jenny appears to be much like her younger sibling, well until all of a sudden she isn’t but more on that later, and finally there is Danika who is mute, so I have no idea what she is all about, but she seems friendly though, in a dead eyed catatonic kind of way. As far as character development goes that’s pretty much it.
When the third act rolled around and the story took a predictable turn that lead into a surprisingly dark finale I was left scratching my head, see the characters here are so thinly drawn that I had to rely almost entirely on subtext to bring everything together, which would have been fine but there is so little meat on the bone I had a hard time wondering why this was a feature length movie. It would have worked so much better as a short, there is around thirty minutes worth of story here stretched over a ninety minute runtime and though the movie is never really dull – well at least for the most part – it is overly padded.
So when a seemingly friendly hot guy named Ryan arrives, Sarah wants to murder him outright while Jenny is defensive at first but then suddenly she is offering him food and shelter and I mean sure Sarah does shoot the guy in the leg, so Jenny should by all means be a little apologetic but not so long ago she shot an old man in the face for asking for some water, so I found it a little hard to buy her being so trusting all of a sudden, sure he seems friendly and she’s attracted to him, but the old man seemed friendly enough too, did he get a bullet just because he wasn’t pretty? The movie never gives an explanation. It would have been interesting for Sarah and Jenny to discuss the morality of their actions, why does Jenny kill some and not others? Why is Sarah so hostile? The characters begin to touch on these subjects but before and kind of meaningful dialogue springs up between them, Sarah just huffs her way off into the distance or Jenny drops the topic.
What I gleaned was that Jenny is hopeful of a world existing outside of the ranch though she is reluctant to leave, her deceased Fathers words “don’t let anyone past our gates,” keeping her duty bound to protect her family and her land, while Sarah, well she wants to leave, then she doesn’t, then she does again, then she can’t abide any outsiders living with them, then she wants to leave with Ryan, then she doesn’t trust him, she’s quite the bag of contradictions. She seems to have taken a rather more nihilistic interpretation of her father’s last words which lends credence to her incisiveness and her actions during the final act of the movie, but when you have a plot as thin as this, taking this subtle of an approach to character development is a mistake.
I knew so little about these characters that I simply did not care about them; there was nothing to ground me in their world, nothing that made me want them to push forward. Sarah comes off as just flat out unlikeable, Jenny just seems overly naïve and Danika well she’s more a prop than anything else. What am I supposed to invest my emotion in here, this is billed more as a drama that anything else, dramas live and die by their characters, there are no characters here, Jenny spends half the movie picking up sticks and getting to know Ryan on the most basic level you could imagine and Sarah just wasn’t to kill anything that moves, well mostly, so it’s hard to tell as one minute she is showing her baby sister a map of the world then next she is all doom and gloom.
Visually The Tribe is very impressive, it’s well shot with some very fine cinematography on display, it’s just unfortunate that we are given such a meandering plot. The first half of the movie leads us to wonder on Ryan’s intentions, though they are made pretty clear early on and when the movie answers those questions with a predictable reveal, I will admit that things didn’t quite turn out how I would have expected, but because I didn’t care it all seemed kind of pointless.
Performances were pretty bland and during the more emotional moments the main cast struggled to deliver the goods, it’s never cringe worthy but it’s never better than simply not bad, and that’s where I fell with my rating, The Tribe is not bad, but it’s not really good either.