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  Settlers How Long Is A Night On Mars?
Year: 2021
Director: Wyatt Rockefeller
Stars: Sofia Boutella, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Brooklynn Prince, Nell Tiger Free, Johnny Lee Miller, Natalie Walsh, Matthew Van Leave
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Remmy (Brooklynn Prince) is a nine-year-old girl who lives on Mars after a project to establish an Earth colony there bore fruit - and vegetables, for she and her parents are able to grow everything they need in their sizable greenhouse, and they also keep pigs and chickens in the compound. Remmy's father is Reza (Johnny Lee Miller), who dotes over the child, as does her mother Ilsa (Sofia Boutella), but together they are growing anxious about the situation for reasons they do not share with her. However, the girl begins to pick up on their unconscious signals, to the extent of needing their company to get through the Martian nights. Then, it happens: a message written on a window: "LEAVE" - who is there with them? And what is their problem?

Shot in South African desert to pass for the Martian one, this was the feature debut, after the requisite shorts, of writer and director Wyatt Rockefeller, who set out to create a Western with science fiction elements. We are told early on that Planet Earth has suffered a dramatic decline, and it was someone's big idea there to set up colonies on Mars, but before you start thinking, yeah, yeah, we've all heard of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, there was a twist. In that book, like this a set of shorter episodes telling an overarching yarn, the Earth people fail on Earth but succeed on the red planet; however, here they fail on Mars as well, which leaves a particularly bleak ending should you consider the bigger implications of those final images.

Settlers could be regarded as a coming of age tale as well, and at least in an oversaturated market there was a novel setting for this one, as Remmy was played by two performers, Prince and for the last third, Nell Tiger Free for her eighteen-year-old self. One actor was consistent across the three parts, and he was Ismael Cruz Cordova playing the not very sci-fi named Jerry; it is he and his two cohorts who are trying to force Reza and Ilsa off their land. The cohorts do not last long, but Jerry does, claiming he was brought up on this settlement and wanting it back, which thanks to his strongarm tactics he does, though there is some ambiguity over whether he should be viewed as a villain or merely someone driven to desperate measures to survive. Remmy, as Jerry makes himself comfortable, you suspect will not forgive him the violence he has implemented to get his way.

Rockefeller had the look of the piece just right, sunbaked and barely survivable in a way that said this was the new frontier, a frontier in a manner the original American settlers would recognise. And yet, unlike those original settlers, the ones on Mars have not succeeded, which is not something you often see in this genre, indeed we begin to wonder if the family we started with are the only humans trying to make a go of living in this scenario on the whole planet. Don't go seeking scientific accuracy, however, the gravity is perhaps unsurprisingly the same as on Earth, and the explanation of how the characters can breathe is an old science fiction favourite, but leaves out any others of the drawbacks of that set-up. There was a Silent Running-style cute droid, on the other hand, which comes on like a fun distraction, as much as this can be fun, but does have an important plot point to deliver late on, yet mostly this eked out its narrative in a series of increasingly downbeat vignettes from Remmy's existence, Jerry growing ever more entitled as she ages. Good looking for what it was, but not enormously enjoyable. Music by Nitin Sawhney.

[SETTLERS will be available to watch from 30th July 2021 in the UK and Ireland on iTunes, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, Google/YouTube, Microsoft.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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