There's so much going for Lucile Hadzihalilovic's Evolution, a film expertly lensed from the deliberate first shot: looking up to the sky from underwater. From beneath, the ripples and waves on the ocean surface produce undulating shadows, a play of light and dark. We eventually leave the water for land and get slowly introduced to the strange, insular world for this work of body horror and dark fantasy, a place where everything seems so off and so mesmerizing all at once.
At its best, Evolution feels like a collaboration between David Cronenberg, H. P. Lovecraft, and Michelangelo Antonioni. It's sexually bizarre and clinical, it's eldritch and slimy and afraid of seafood, it's thematically and compositionally contemplative. Still, whatever spell Hadzihalilovic weaves early on unravels after a certain point. It's a deliberate move, and it's a frustrating one, and yet I think I'm okay with it, at least in concept.
[This review originally ran as part of our coverage of New Directors/New Films. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical release of the film.]