20 Years After


Can We Get a Soundtrack for This Movie, Please?

Main Cast: Azura Skye, Joshua Leonard

Director: Jim Torres

What a surprise.

With a slew of bad reviews on Netflix and a lot of negative comments on IMDB, I didn’t go into this movie with very high expectations. And in the end, I was glad I forged ahead anyway.

Sure it started off super slow, and I can’t even say that it got a lot better once it got moving because, honestly, it never really got moving. 20 Years After is a slow movie, no denying that. And even though the cast is full of recognizable faces (Joshua Leonard, Azura Skye, Diane Salinger, Reg E. Cathey and Nathan Baesel), none of them steal the spotlight or call too much attention to themselves, everyone remaining just under the radar.

So why it is, after 95 minutes, I exited this movie satisfied? Thank writer/director Jim Torres who really knows how to make an engaging movie out of a very thin, predictable plot with flat characters and no money. I mean, really, in retrospect there was little about this movie that should have worked as well as it did.

The setting is 20 years after a nuclear war, and in 15 years no children have been born. Sarah finds herself pregnant, and living in a basement with her mother when one day Samuel shows up claiming the basement belongs to him.

There was no one living in the house when they found it, mother Margaret says, to which Samuel replies he was away for a while. Samuel is one of the good ones, though, and means them no harm. In fact, he knows a cave system not far from there where they have fresh water, something Margaret and Sarah are lacking.

They set off and when they arrive, Margaret discovers the community living in the cave is run by an old friend, Quincy.

Meanwhile, somewhere else, another band of survivors exists, let by the vicious Ms. Mynard who uses her main thug, David, to loot the neighboring cities. Ms. Mynard has a spy in the cave camp and when she learns of Sarah’s impending delivery, she sends David to bring her back: she wants that baby!

And then there’s Michael, a DJ who is broadcasting through the aftermath, a loner who has nothing to do all day but talk into a microphone and just pray someone is out there listening.

20 Years After is full of characters, and yet not one PERSON. No one here is given a clear personality that is anything other than a cardboard cliché, and while I believe Sarah is supposed to be our main character, Skye plays her with such timidity, if not for the big belly and brightly-colored dress she wears, you’d almost forget she’s even there.

Little thought was given–as far as I was able to tell–to where the people, 20 years after nuclear war, get things like food or power, but no one looks like they’ve missed any meals, and Michael has power to run his “radio station”. And you’d think 20 years after every maker of clothes has gone out of business, there’d be a lot more holes in what everyone is wearing, a lot more threadbare patches and whatnot, but everybody seems pretty well-dressed. I’d love to know how they pulled that off, too, because I’ve got jeans I bought just a year ago that are on their way out. But we look past these kind of plot holes and, somehow, Torres keeps us otherwise engaged.

If pressed, I’d have to say a large part of that subterfuge was due to the wonderful soundtrack. There wasn’t a song here that I knew, nor did I recognize any of the artists in the credits, but the fact I watched the credits just to hear the music that played over them, and to check out the list of songs and artists used in the movie, should say something, because I NEVER sit through credits, unless it’s a Marvel movie and I’m trying to get to the hidden scene at the end. But I sat through them for this movie, too, because…damn, those song choices. There were only a handful, maybe half a dozen, but they should definitely be collected on a soundtrack. I’d buy that without hesitation.

Looking back on the movie, I’m still surprised I liked it as much as I did. But there’s a weird charm to it that I found comforting, and I came out the other end of the movie being a fan of almost everyone in it. Unfortunately, this is Torres’s only film, but if he was able to pull off this kind of movie on his first try, I can’t wait to see what he does with a few more titles under his belt.

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