Z For Zachariah is set in the wake of a nuclear disaster which wipes out the population leaving pockets of radiation soaked landscapes. Margot Robbie plays Ann, a farmer’s daughter and the last human member of her family still alive after surviving a tough winter with her dog Faro on her family’s farm, through the aftermath of the nuclear fallout. She lives in the belief that she is the last person alive but soon experiences a glimmer of hope when she comes across another survivor in a radiation suit while hunting. The appearance of the stranger is a welcomed sight but she is apprehensive to approach and watches from afar.

The stranger thinks he is safe from the high radiation and decides to shed his shabby protective suit to take a soak in a nearby river. Ann emerges from hiding in the woods to warn him he is frolicking in radioactive water, but it is too late. She takes him back to her farm and nurses him back to health over several days and starts to build a relationship with him.

Most of the movie is based on the relationship that builds between this stranger, Zachariah (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and Ann, providing the viewer with some insight to the events prior to them finding each other. Set against rural woody panorama it would be easy to believe this is not a science fiction but rather a contemporary character study as the film revolves around the exchanges between the two.

Their stable existence and mundane routine is upset though with the appearance of Caleb (Chris Pine). His appearance is welcomed by Ann but Zachariah does not trust his sudden appearance. Caleb brings up some difficult topics that Zachariah and Ann have successfully avoided which injects tension into their relationship.

Caleb creates fresh drama in the story and constantly draws out the pair to engage him on larger issues like rebuilding or relocating.  The dynamic and tense exchanges between the trio keeps the viewer engaged and unsettled as you question which characters have the most chemistry. Ann clearly has a strong bond with Zachariah but once Caleb appears the two seems to spark it off immediately, adding some third-wheel romantic tension into the mix.

The talented cast handle their roles well, especially Robbie who shows off her acting range as her character is put through an emotional gauntlet, evolving through the movie as she grapples with her changing belief, all while trying to hold on to the comfort of her past and accepting her situation. The farm is almost a metaphor for Ann’s life: a safe haven amidst the tragedy that surround which is filled with uncertainty. For the farm and Ann to survive the past must be dismantled so there can be a future.


Director Craig Zobel manages to translate Robert C. O’Brien’s post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel visually on screen without relying heavily on dialogue, cleverly framing scenes to also be a part of the story telling. Considering the movie deviates from the book’s first-person perspective of sixteen-year-old Ann and adds a third character, it is still a worthy adaption.

However the main themes of the book are lost in that it only subtly hints at a deconstruction of abusive and controlling relationships and instead just offers us another aspect which is a love triangle – luckily carried superbly by the cast. As a result while some themes may be lost on movie audiences who have not read the book, the newer approach ultimately still drives the movie to the end well and returns us to the original dynamic between Zachariah and Ann.

Last Updated: September 6, 2016

Z for Zachariah

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