When a grizzled woman and her daughter appear at his door one morning an uneasy dynamic is formed and the suspicious trio find their shaky bond tested even further when ravagers discover the farm, as well as its inhabitants and the crops.
There's more than a shade of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend and The Omega Man in this one. In fact the title character isn't too far removed from I Am Legend's Robert Neville. He's an industrious man who has learned how to forage and farm, to hunt and survive, where the simplest tasks we take for granted become matters of the greatest importance. He lives a life filled with fear and paranoia but instead of the ruins of a metropolis The Survivalist exists in nature.
There's no two ways about it, THE SURVIVALIST is pretty gnarly stuff. It's a grim, heavy experience. Everything is stripped back; the score which is largely left to diegetic sources, the lack of characters, the drained colour palette, the ability for emotional connections, humanity and empathy, all gone the way of civilisation. Even the dialogue is as sparse as the people who populate the film. Indeed, THE SURVIVALIST is almost a silent film, with long periods of time sustained with nobody talking to each other, even when there's murderous intent.
Which leads to Fingleton displaying a control over the material, which is uncommon for a debuting director. He has a confidence and understanding of his film that means the viewer is only ever where he wants them to be at any given stage. His use of story point-of-view is quite remarkable. The physicality of his direction means that, no matter how complex the characters psychology or motivations are, the viewer is never left in any doubt what is going on.
It's never a particularly easy watch but THE SURVIVALIST is always riveting. A classically themed science fiction that is too savage for the mainstream, but will no doubt gain a cult following.