Review: ‘Biopshere’ (2023), starring Mark Duplass and Sterling K. Brown

September 12, 2023

by Carla Hay

Sterling K. Brown and Mark Duplass in “Biosphere” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

“Biosphere” (2023)

Directed by Mel Eslyn

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the sci-fi comedy/drama film “Biosphere” has cast of two people (one white person and one African American) representing the upper-middle-class.

Culture Clash: While living in a biosphere during an apocalypse that has wiped out most of the human population, a U.S. president and his scientist best friend try to figure out ways to survive and procreate.

Culture Audience: “Biosphere” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of stars Mark Duplass and Sterling K. Brown and stores about apocalypse survival.

Mark Duplass and Sterling K. Brown in “Biosphere” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

The sci-fi dramedy “Biosphere” would’ve been better as a short film, because some of the story drags with repetition. However, this post-apocalyptic movie with a two-person cast has good acting and provocative issues about human reproduction and gender. Some of the scenes in the movie look like they’re intended to make some viewers uncomfortable. “Biosphere” had its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Festival.

Directed by Mel Eslyn (who co-wrote the “Biosphere” screenplay with Mark Duplass), “Biosphere” could have easily been a stage play, since there is really only one setting for the movie: inside a biosphere during an apocalypse. The biosphere is in an unnamed U.S. city.

There are also only two people in the cast: Billy (played by Duplass) and Ray (played by Sterling K. Brown), who have been friends ever since they were students at Yale University. Billy is the president of the United States. Ray is a biochemist who has also been Billy’s scientifc advisor. Ray (who is very calm and logical) likes to remind Billy (who is jittery and neurotic) that Ray is more intelligent than Billy.

In this dialogue-heavy movie, viewers find out that Billy caused a worldwide disaster by “blowing everything up by mistake.” This apocalypse has destroyed any means of mass communication. It is also unsafe to go outside. Billy and Ray have been living in this biosphere (which can supply and recycle oxygen) that Ray created for this type of emergency. Because they have no communication with the outside world, Ray and Billy don’t know how many human survivors are left.

Ray and Billy have been living off of plants that grow in the biosphere, as well as some packaged food that will soon run out. They also have been raising fish to eat. One day, something strange happens: Ray notices that the male fish in the tank have turned into female fish. With no male fish left, the fish cannot reproduce, so Billy and Ray worry about how they are going to get more fish when the fish supply runs out.

There’s also another issue: Ray and Blly don’t know how long they will be stuck in this biosphere. They wonder if they are the last people on Earth, then how will the human race continue? That is the core issue of “Biosphere,” but it takes a while before the movie gets there. Viewers can expect to hear a lot of bickering and debates between Billy and Ray in this movie. Ray and Billy also have moments of genuine bonding that strengthen their friendship.

The acting performances in “Biosphere” are interesting to watch for the human dynamics between these two best friends who are stuck together in a bleak survival situation. To relieve stress, they exercise by jogging inside the biosphere or by reading. There’s eventually a solution to the reproductive problem, which is the part of the movie that is intended to make some viewers squirm. “Biosphere” is a movie that appears to be lightweight on the surface, but it brings up serious issues that will make viewers wonder what they would do if they were in the same situation as Ray and Billy.

IFC Films released “Biosphere” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on July 7, 2023.

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