Overview: As America suffers a zombie outbreak, a Midwest farmer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) fights to stay by his infected daughter (Abigail Breslin); Lionsgate; 2015; Rated R; 95 Minutes.
Denial: In the first act of Maggie, there is offered some forceful exposition by cliche sources. Director Henry Hobson and his Writer Jon Scott 3 employ both the needless FM radio news summation of the movie world’s current conflict and the overly descriptive doctor commenting on the now-common infectious symptoms. This pair of informative sources, however standard in form, articulate the specific conditions of the zombie outbreak and the resulting culture. As we come out of a decade wherein pop culture was smothered by trendy zombie content, it’s refreshing to realize that Hobson and Scott have managed, with just a little customization, to create an intriguing take on a tired topic. Maggie’s infection develops slower, both in terms of narrative chronological space and film time, than any I can immediately remember from past epidemic films. Maggie takes its time to a degree that’s almost unkind (and unbearable) to the viewer. That’s because the ambitions are distinctly different than those of more popular zombie material.
Depression: Hobson’s isn’t a film concerned with survival impulse or apocalyptic fear. Nor does he attempt to metaphorically embed social commentary. His zombie infection, its vociferously articulated set of symptoms, and the audience’s genre-informed understanding of the topic all work as a ruler to measure Maggie’s dying. We know it will happen. Maggie is infected through a bite before our story even begins, and thereafter, each observable change in her physical or behavioral presence is just another evident click on a figurative countdown clock.
Bargaining: This, along with David Wingow’s affecting score, is how Maggie becomes a quiet but heavy essay on mourning and death, observed primarily with unsteady shots pushing intimately close to its characters, rarely catching entire bodies in frame. Lukas Ettlin’s camera observes Maggie’s father and step-mother (Joely Richardson) the way a visitor might observe parents suffering loss: confused, shaking, almost bashful. This perspective establishes a thinly allegorical telling of any parent’s loss of a child to a terminal condition. The vulgarity of the symptoms and the violence of the surrounding outbreak permit the grieving parents more demonstrative emotion, a more concrete force at which their suffering can be exhibited, instead, as visible fighting. If one wished to present Maggie alternatively as a story of parents losing a teenager to cancer, AIDS, or drugs, very minor edits would be required.
Anger: Of course, the film is likely to be most notable for the unexpectedly subdued performance of its lead. The stripped down version of the normally high-charged Schwarzenegger is another manipulation used to highlight the parental devastation that serve as the film’s emotional heart. Both he and Breslin elicit gut-wrenching empathy in their gradual coming to terms with the inevitable.
Acceptance: Maggie is a film of surprising humanity, certainly as patient, touching, and intimate a portrait of personal loss as one could ever expect to find hiding in a zombie movie.