ASTRAEA [DEAD BY DAWN]

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Two years after a mysterious disease called the Drop caused most of the human race to simply drop dead, Astraea and her half-brother Matthew are travelling to Nova Scotia to fulfil a promise to come for Astraea’s grandmother and brother. On the way they encounter siblings James and Callie, and end up waiting out the winter in their isolated but well-stocked cabin.

The end of the world has never looked so peaceful. Most post-apocalyptic settings feature brutal gang warfare or roving mutated chimera threatening the lives of the last few survivors, but Astraea consists of little more than four people in a house, and it’s still utterly engaging.

The film begins with a voiceover by Astraea relating how this empty planet came to be, and during this we see her and Matthew travelling through barren urban wastelands, their isolation emphasising the wide open emptiness of the wintry desolation. The frozen countryside covered in a pristine blanket of crisp snow might as well be a microcosmic representation of the whole world: still, quiet and utterly devoid of the human race doing all they can to disrupt the serenity of nature.

Of course, there is still drama to be had, but it is simple human drama arising from jealousies within the small group and the strain of the constant requirement to make the best of still being alive, as well as an apparent supernatural aspect from the periodic visions Astraea experiences of her grandmother and brother, seeming to beckon her to continue on her journey.

In this age of ubiquitous YA adaptations a teenage girl unwittingly and unwillingly taking on the role of the heart of humanity is in no way unusual, but far from facing a life or death struggle with the fate of the world at stake, Astraea’s straddling of youthful innocence and emotional maturity maintains a fragile equilibrium, her presence seeming to be the one thing that holds everyone together. For all the four know, they are the last people alive, and when the human race has all but come to an end, what does humanity even mean any more?

There is no great revelation over the cause of the Drop, nor is the possibility of one ever even brought up, and the lingering question of the source of Astraea’s visions is likewise unexplored, as for the purposes of the story it doesn’t really matter. The greatest challenge for the survivors is retaining the will to go on in a world nobody can have any realistic hope of rebuilding. The past is gone and the future can take care of itself; there is only the here and now, and what that ultimately means is something only each individual can decide for themselves.

Astraea / Cert: TBA / Director: Kristjan Thor / Screenplay: Ashlin Halfnight / Starring: Nerea Duhart, Scotty Crowe, Jessica Cummings, Dan O’Brien / Release Date: TBA
 


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