It’s not hard to believe that the world can come to an end; just view the current general election. Into the Forest, which director Patricia Rozema (I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing) adapted from Jean Hegland’s apocalyptic 1996 novel, brings the darkness to the near future in a house in the rural woods. That’s where two sisters, Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood), must deal with a blackout that erases technology and every other modern convenience from their lives. Can the siblings survive on their ingenuity and what they find in the forest? Their dad (Callum Keith Rennie) has died in an accident. Nell’s boyfriend, Eli (Max Minghella), is out of the picture. Stan (Michael Eklund), the creepy store manager, has sold them their last supplies. The sisters are on their own. A scary portent? Or a glimmer of hope for a future led by women?
Rozema teases both possibilities. But the film leaves too many questions hanging, too many themes aching for resolution. What Into the Forest has steadily in its favor are two fiercely-committed performances from Wood and Page, who also produced. Their sisterhood, with all its centered devotion and frayed emotions, feels genuine. Also threatened: There are no zombies at the door, no vengeful spirits howling. Just two human beings facing a void and a more familiar form of monster. Rozema’s minimalist approach pays dividends until a final third hobbled by overdone effects and a thrashing musical score. Too bad. The story being told on the faces of Page and Wood had eloquence and power enough to hold us rapt.