TIFF 2021: Encounter dir. Michael Pearce

From the beginning of the film, thanks to the way the film is told, and the willing suspension of disbelief that is inherent with cinema, we believe Malik (Riz Ahmed) and his conviction that a microscopic parasitic alien organism has come to the planet and is slowly taking over, manipulating people to their own end. Maybe that explains the upsurge in violence we’ve seen over the past few years.

An ex-marine, he’s determined to save his two boys, Jay (Lucian-River Chauhan) and Bobby (Aditya Geddada)and steals them from their home, with the promise of a road trip. Doused in insect spray to protect them, the trio head across America, with Malik intent on protecting his children.

When the narrative shift happens with the introduction of Hattie (Octavia Spencer) we are treated to a commentary on mental health (and the ignorance of it), paranoia, violence, PTSD, and a subtle nudge about how those who serve the country are treated.

The performances are the beating heart of this film, and it rests easily on both Ahmed and Spencer’s shoulders, both of whom are exceptional, and Pearce knows to take his time with lingering shots as things escalate and push the characters and the viewing audience into stark and harsh realisations about the state of our world and our selves.

Encounter screens one last time at TIFF, digitally on Tuesday!

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