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Acid: A Dystopian Eco-Thriller by Just Philippot | Review

A film of extreme seriousness, distress, and apocalypse where the ecological parable gives way to existing horror with no escape. Unappealing to climate change deniers, Acid by Just Philippot constructs a gripping tension that leaves no room for respite.

MOVIE REVIEWS

Acid (2023)
Original title: Acide
Directed by Just Philippot

Deadly Rain

During a heatwave, strange clouds begin to unleash acid rain, spreading devastation and panic across France. In a precarious world, a girl and her divorced parents must unite to face and try to escape this climatic catastrophe.

A film like Acid doesn’t fit comfortably within the “science fiction” category anymore. It’s more fitting to call it eco-vengeance, as the threat it depicts is already a reality, much to the chagrin of climate change deniers. The chemical processes shown, like sulfur dioxide forming sulfuric acid when it contacts rain, are scientifically accurate but not yet lethal—at least not directly. Acid is a dystopian and apocalyptic eco-vengeance film, stripped of any exploitative elements or humor that typically characterize such genres. Directed by Just Philippot, the film is exceedingly serious and distressing, devoid of any jokes or bravado to alleviate tension. This stark seriousness is its greatest strength, emphasizing that laughing at these issues is foolish.

The Italian distribution chose the international title, Acid, derived from Philippot’s short film part of the project 4 histoires fantastiques (2018). Following this, Philippot directed his first feature film, the dystopian The Swarm (La nuée, 2020), bringing forward lead actress Suliane Brahim, who plays Karin, the new partner of Michal (Guillaume Canet). In The Swarm, locusts cause devastation, while in Acid, the destruction stems from another biblical plague—not hail, but genuine acid rain. This rain corrodes everything it touches: wood, metal, clothes, skin, flesh. There’s no escape. Toxic clouds rapidly travel from South America to Europe, catching authorities and the population off guard, in a series of events reminiscent of Roland Emmerich’s films.

The film seriously mirrors Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, portraying a father and daughter’s desperate flight from a world that suddenly rejects them. The first image of this catastrophe is two horses with burning backs fleeing, nearly trampling young Selma (Patience Munchenbach). From then on, things worsen, and the reunion of father, ex-wife, and daughter hints at an inevitable requiem for them and humanity. The atmosphere is tense and menacing, with dark tones in both photography and music. This deadly rain symbolizes an impending darkness engulfing the world, with every shelter proving temporary and soon destroyed.

But Acid aims to be more than this. It starts with a long mockumentary-style sequence showing various cell phones recording a worker uprising at the protagonist’s workplace. The protagonist, one of the angriest, assaults his boss and a policeman before being overpowered and imprisoned for a couple of years. After his release, he wears an electronic ankle bracelet. Michal’s anger and activism focus solely on social and labor issues, while his teenage daughter Selma is concerned about the environment and her survival. This generational clash drives the narrative, with the young director and co-writer highlighting the youth’s perspective without appearing trendy or moralistic, as there’s no time for such. Selma’s eyes gradually fill with horror and despair as she realizes she has no future, which hurts more than the painful death of a main character. For its consistent and extreme approach, Acid is a film that works too well. Those seeking a typical summer sci-fi horror for light entertainment should look elsewhere.

Vittorio Renzi

Quinlan, July 7, 2024

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