Chris Pine, Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor
As adapted by Compliance and Great World of Sound filmmaker Craig Zobel, Z for Zachariah is a deliberate, complex look at humanity after society ends. Young farm girl Ann Burden (Margot Robbie) is surviving on her own in an idyllic valley untouched by the radiated aftermath of nuclear war when a scientist, John Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor), enters her life. Soon, this brewing couple have their solitude disturbed by a coal miner named Caleb (Chris Pine).
Zobel and acclaimed cinematographer Tim Orr take cues from Malick and Tartovsky, with the landscape rounding out a quartet of players. Strong performances key this complicated love triangle, though nothing would be lost if Robbie and Pine dumped their “Southern” accents. Robbie is particularly surprising, as her looks belie her talent (though her accent makes her seem like a new version of Jaime Pressly). As model-beautiful as Robbie may be, she never seems like she could not be an innocent farm girl, even if the film strangely obfuscates Ann’s age.
Younger fans of the book will find the movie frustrating, as might viewers who came to Zobel by way of Compliance. Still, the film’s challenge will please a particular subset of filmgoers; hopefully, they will find it, so Zobel can continue pushing cinephiles.