20 Years After is a science fiction thriller about survivors struggling to reestablish the world after bombs and plagues have left it barren and frightening. The film is based on the play “Like Moles, Like Rats,” written by Ron Harris. The play’s title describes the way in which people have set up lives underground, living in fear of the outside world.
Azura Skye (28 Days, One Missed Call) plays Sarah, a pregnant woman who sets off on a journey when her water supply diminishes. The fact that she is pregnant is key to the plot; there hasn’t been a baby born for 15 years, making Sarah a target for those who want her child. Joining Sarah on her voyage is her protective mother and a man who they discover has been living in a hidden floor beneath them, Samuel, played by Reg E. Cathey (The Wire, Oz).
They make it to an underground refugee camp where they later meet Michael, a radio DJ played by Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project). Michael’s broadcasts provide a sort of human connection to listeners, with his reflections on the world interspersed with the eclectic music he has collected. When Michael learns of another man broadcasting on the radio as well, his need for human contact and change lead him and some of the others on an even greater journey out of the safe and familiar.
The movie has a good, albeit unoriginal premise. It’s a bit reminiscent of Children of Men and other end-of-the-world films. However, the movie doesn’t offer enough freshness to match similar pictures of the past.
The story-line about the people who want Sarah’s baby was a bit puzzling. By the end, the movie explains their motives; however, it still isn’t completely clear why they were so bizarre. Part of the problem probably existed due to less-than-fantastic acting. These portions of the film were pretty hard to sit through.
There is much more characterization with the “good” characters. The only one whose motives aren’t understandable is Samuel, but it is his mix of fatherly kindness and creepiness (there are two scenes where he uses light to get people to see parts of their past) that make him more fascinating than the others. Skye’s Sarah is wide-eyed and innocent, wanting a life beyond the caves. She’s unlike her mother who, although strong, is afraid of the unknown (she’s on a mission to find out what has happened to her husband).
Some parts of the film were a little stale due to the pacing and the acting. However, there were also scenes where Michael’s music and images of the desolate world have the potential to make an impression. In the more subtle moments, the characters seemed almost to open up in a real way, but then there were a lot of soap opera-like moments that were dramatic in a way inappropriate for this particular movie. The film also tried to weave different stories together, but it was done in a fairly obvious way. Overall, the film had a few good elements, but not enough to overcome the expectations of a storyline done so many times before.