It’s not easy to describe what exactly Biosphere (2023), the new Duplass brothers production is all about without ruining the experience of watching it firsthand. But be aware that you have no idea what you are in for. While that’s not the right way to sell this delightful and weird comedy where Sterling K. Brown and Mark Duplass star as Ray & Billy – the last two people on earth, it is undeniable that this funny and wise end-of-the-world yarn has some intriguing ideas under its sleeves and it almost manages to lead them to fructification.
Directed by Mel Eslyn in what is her directorial debut makes the audacious choice of setting it in a single location. Ray, an intelligent and optimistic scientist, built this apartment-sized dome where he resides with his childhood friend Billy. Apparently, Billy, the ex-president of America before the catastrophe took hold and everything went to shit, asked Billy to design it. Now, the two buddies have been living together in this safe environment that is aided by Ray’s well-structured planning.
They wake up each day to the changing sequence of the automated switching on and off of the lighting system. They jog around the circumference of the dome and talk about their shared likings and dislikings. The first time we meet them, they are having a brief argument about Super Mario and Luigi; and their favorite pass time is also taking up the console playing the 90s hit 2D game. Unlike Ray, Billy is not as intelligent and quietly impulsive about every little glitch he sees in their perfectly planned paradise. When one of their fish – supposed to be a key to the water filtration system that Ray has put into place dies, the balance within the dome is threatened.
Now, delving further into the plot of Biosphere would mean revealing much of its whacky, unsettling, and truly unique plot points. However, it’s safe to say that this buddy comedy uses its R-rated comedy tropes to uncover the crevices of gender, identity, and sexuality. In what I would hereby call the biggest queer twist of the year, Biosphere transforms into a film that tells us that we do not know everything. One of the best ways to realize that is to let ourselves be comfortable with change, which is, of course, the only constant.
By putting two dudes as the only focal point here, director Mel Eslyn is trying to deconstruct masculinity for those who still reside in the 90s. Visual cues like Ray thinking Lethal Weapon 2 is the greatest film of all time or the sight of Mark Duplass completely freaking out while shouting, “I don’t freak out,” provide us with the right amount of systemic bait to completely digest the unsettling aspects of the movie. While some may find the mid-way tonal shift to be completely out of place, those who are able to really gel with Brown and Duplass’ incredible chemistry will be rewarded with an evolutionary lesson that is as pertinent as realizing your political stance.
Biosphere is a film that is full of ideas, but since it’s mostly dialogue driven – with the only other conflict being a green light that appears somewhere outside the dome, it runs too thin for a 1-hour 47-minute-long narrative. That said, this funny and complex take on evolution left me delighted and baffled, and for that alone, I’d recommend it.