Dusty metal on red sand, the sun rising pale above the cliff face, Mars is not a place to raise a family even under the best of circumstances, Reza, Isla and their young daughter Remmy surviving with little more than their two pigs and a greenhouse of spindly plants, the water to the compound not even running properly, but under the stars and the bright glow of a distant planet which is no longer their home they are alone, and alone is safe.
A frontier family, settlers in the harshest of environments, Reza tells his daughter they came to Mars because they wanted something more than they could have on the world they abandoned, avoiding telling her what Earth is really like or the real reasons for their leaving, but their solitude is broken when Remmy wakes to find a message scrawled in pig blood on the window of their living quarters: LEAVE.
Filmed in the astonishing beauty of the deserts and rocky hills of Namaqualand on the border of South Africa and Namibia, red tinged dirt and arid desolation under open skies devoid of a solace of a single cloud to diffuse the radiating sun, Settlers is the debut feature of writer/director Wyatt Rockefeller, as harsh and unforgiving as the barren future in which it is set.
Their sanctuary and their child threatened, Reza and Isla (Frankenstein’s Jonny Lee Miller and Star Trek Beyond’s Sofia Boutella) change from Remmy’s loving parents to something she does not recognise, people capable of taking a life without hesitation, of stripping a body of a dead woman of what might be of use without looking at her face, Remmy (Brooklyn Prince) unable to look away.
The leader of the raiders stating that the homestead belonged to his parents and claiming it, allowing them to stay so long as they accept that fact, Ilsa has few options open to her and chooses survival for herself and for Remmy (later played by Nell Tiger Free). An uncomfortable bargain of necessity with the killer at the other end of the hallway, Jerry (Ismael Cruz Córdova, soon to be seen in The Lord of the Rings) also did what he had to; does that make him a monster?
The Martian locale presented without backstory or explanation, the migration and the collapse of the colony left to the viewer’s imagination as much as the source of the swelling ranks of livestock or the identity of the stylist who re-braids Jerry’s hair as time passes, the story is handed to each character in turn as the consequences of their actions take their toll, Settlers who dreamed of more at the end of a frayed tether with nothing to hold onto but grim resolve in one hand and a weapon in the other.
Settlers will be available on digital platforms from Friday 30th July