A wistful beauty and a delicately imaginative sense of craft set “Vesper” apart from most post-apocalyptic stories. In this future, a genetically induced ecological disaster has left scattered survivors, while an elite class lives cloistered in a protected area known as the Citadel. Bearing the visual influence of illustrators and video games perhaps more than movies, the directors Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper envelop us in the world of a gifted girl who cares for her bedridden father.
Vesper (Raffiella Chapman) roams the hushed forest around their cabin, accompanied by a drone. There’s a sweet sci-fi lyricism in the relationship between her and her parent, Darius (Richard Brake): he speaks remotely through the drone, a voice of hard-won wisdom. Bodily, Darius remains at home, a cadaverous figure lit by a glowing orb as in a painting by a Dutch master — the handiwork of Feliksas Abrukauskas, whose cinematography smoothly integrates the film’s C.G.I.
One day Vesper finds an older girl lying in the forest, overgrown with vines like a fairy-tale princess (though these vines suck blood). This is Camellia (Rosy McEwen), a glassy-eyed exile from the Citadel who crash-landed. Her stay with Vesper attracts Darius’s unscrupulous brother, Jonas (Eddie Marsan), who employs an army of children and hoards precious seeds.
More impressive than the serviceable plotting are the elegant visual ideas: the hybrid plants that resemble deep-sea creatures or woodland mushrooms; or Vesper’s computer console, a tabletop scrim of swirling colors. In these filmmakers’ hands, an aerial shot of a speck of light in a forest eloquently expresses Vesper’s isolation, and the optimism that might save her.