Writer: Amy Berryman
Director: Ian Rickson
We acknowledge its existence but don’t worry too much about the consequences. We know we should do more, but really, will recycling that one bottle help all that much? Underpinning the harrowing reality of life in a climate crisis earth is a continuing conceptual narrative in both science fiction and drama, and as time presses on, these stories grow closer to the bone.
Amy Berryman’s Walden, filmed at the Harold Pinter Theatre, and available in cinemas, targets the central issue facing us and wraps this in a sisterly dynamic whose complex relationship strikes accord with the differing opinions and perspectives we share.
Climate refugees, lunar colonies, printed foods, bombings in India, tsunamis and hundreds of miles of unbreathable air – the complexity and enormity of the setup is intimidating, and this is only twelve minutes in. It’s all obtuse and too much; Berryman’s script exposition is a scatter-gun of dreads and fears which doesn’t come over as authentic. Ian Rickson’s direction isn’t helpful, formulating an intense listing structure as the cast reel off the horrors of the world with little sense of care or endangerment.
Returning to earth, NASA astronaut Cassie finds herself invited to her estranged sister and partner’s cabin far from the reaches of toxins and living a more natural lifestyle away from screens, technology and other humans. Though initially excited to see one another, Cassie and Stella cannot quite overcome their bitterness in life. Stella (once a NASA architect) is resentful of the life Cassie would lead in her place.
This is the real fascination as the core focal point is the dynamic between sisters Cassie and Stella. Gemma Arterton and Lydia Wilson are sisters pitted against one another by their father, a famous astronaut. Orbiting one another, they encircle, unsure if the other is playing prey or predator. It’s the more enthralling aspect to watch within the production. Wilson achieves a stronger sense of development; her intensity stripped back, whereas Arterton ends where she begins. Still enjoyable, and a reminder of Arterton’s stage strength, the emotional impact of Rickson’s slow burn has consequences as it softens the impact.
There is, for those willing, a pay-off, a sequence where Arterton and Wilson flourish with palpable sisterly connection and love, leading to the conclusive (or lack thereof) ending. Walden doesn’t claim to have a tidy ending with a neat bow, but it’s a fitting moment that reinforces the indecisive natures, leaving unanswered questions. Intentional, of course, but it cannot go without note that this will be immeasurably divisive for audiences – appeasing some, enraging others.
On limited release in cinemas