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Watch This Review

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Movie Review

The end began slowly.

There was no giant earthquake. No alien invasion. No world war.

In fact, it all started with what seemed to be little more than a simple power outage that lingered longer than usual. The gas shortage that followed was an added headache. But historically, those sorts of problems had always resolved themselves with a little time.

The resulting inconveniences in Eva and Nell's lives are minor at first, though still irritating. The gas shortage means no trips into town from the edge-of-the-forest home where they live with their doting father, Robert. And that, in turn, means less time for Eva to prepare for her audition with a prestigious dance troupe and less time for Nell to foster her budding romance with a young man named Eli.

Neither are even remotely happy about the annoying interruption of normal life.

Their dad helps keep spirits up, though. Robert encourages Eva as she practices for her audition. He also encourages Nell as she studies to take the SAT. The remote cabin in the Pacific Northwest forest that they call home is well stocked to weather an extended power outage. Besides, Dad is something of a modern MacGyver who can fix almost anything.

All they have to do is wait it out.

Days roll into weeks. Weeks stretch into months. The power outage persists. From what little they can gather from the radio, so does the decline of the nation's infrastructure.

Then the radio goes silent.

Still, the cabin is pretty cozy. Sure, there's no electricity. But that's nothing a good fire—combined with Robert's unsinkable, always-optimistic can-do spirit, of course—can't rectify.

Then tragedy strikes … this one much closer to home.

[Note: Spoilers are contained in the sections below.]

Positive Elements

The members of this small family of three care deeply for one another. They may joke and snip and snap—especially the two sisters—but they also stick together and do everything they can to care for one another. It's abundantly clear from the young women's interactions with their father—and from home video footage they watch—that their parents have loved them deeply and poured their time and energy into them. (We learn over the course of the film that Nell and Eva's mother recently died of cancer.)

What begins as something like an inconveniently long camping trip turns deadly serious when Robert is injured and soon dies after a chain saw accident. As he's about to pass on, he tells his girls, "Take care of each other," and "Love each other." Without their dad there to help, Nell and Eva are forced to make a go of it alone. Remarkably, the lessons and skills their wise and industrious dad has instilled in them enable Nell and Eva to make do. They learn how to locate food in the forest and even take up hunting. But the sisters' relationship and mettle are continually tested as they navigate the fallout of a world that has silently collapsed beyond the borders of their not-altogether-deserted section of the forest.

Eli, Nell's unofficial boyfriend, genuinely cares for her. He tries to convince the sisters to come with him when rumors suggest that the power is back on out East. Nell agrees to go, leaving Eva behind. But she soon regrets her decision and returns to her sister. As Nell and Eli part for the last time, he graciously gifts her with his flint and steel and says he's glad to love her however he can.

When Eva becomes pregnant unexpectedly under horrible circumstances, Nell's first instinct is to figure out how to "safely" abort her unborn child. (She's been poring over all manner of books, including medical books, during their prolonged sojourn.) But Eva won't hear of it. She emphatically rejects that suggestion. She defends the inherent value of her unborn baby's life regardless of the circumstances, saying, "I don't think kids are responsible for their parents' actions. It's its own person." In doing so, she highlights the pro-life idea that even an unborn fetus has dignity and is worthy of protection.

After that, Nell is nothing short of her sister's hero as she cares for Eva and her unborn child throughout the pregnancy. She does her best to make sure both are as healthy and well fed as possible—even when it means she has to do things that are outside of her comfort zone. Although both women look to each other's best interests most of the time, Nell is particularly dedicated to taking care of Eva.

Throughout the film, Nell consistently takes on the heavy mantle of protector and provider for her sister—both physically and emotionally. When the lack of music and unrelenting monotony of her metronome (which she uses to help her dance) lead Eva into a state of depression, Nell goes to great lengths to cheer her up and make sure her sister continues to care for herself. When Eva becomes little more than a shell of her former self after she is raped, Nell is there by her side, day in and day out, desperately trying to bring her hope. Eva stops eating for a long while, but Nell eventually coaxes her back into caring for herself. After Eva's baby is born, the new mom gushes joyously through tears, "I'm going to love you my whole life!"

Spiritual Content

Nell jokes about participating in a mystical water dance. She looks up and whispers a prayer-like "thank you" when she gets her period (after having had unprotected sex with Eli). One of the family's chickens is named Bathsheba.

Sexual Content

Eva and Nell wear clingy and low-cut tops. Eva practices dance in revealing, form-fitting leotards. Some bikers make a passing reference to the women being "tasty."

Nell and Eli kiss passionately, and they consummate their relationship at a hideout deep in the woods. The camera watches as they kiss and undress. The scene includes breast nudity as well as explicit movement and sounds. We later see the young woman's soiled underwear after her period starts.

Two bathing scenes picture women with bare backs and include brief side-breast shots; a third scene pictures Nell's bare back as she lies down. Eva's shown unclothed from the waist up as she prepares to nurse her baby after a lengthy labor and delivery scene.

Violent Content

In a truly gut-wrenching scene, the camera gazes on as a man rapes Eva. They exchange kicks and punches before Eva's assailant (an acquaintance from a nearby town) throws her savagely to the ground. The camera focuses on a lingering close-up of Eva's face. The man shoves her head into the dirt as he assaults the screaming young woman.

Nell returns (from picking berries in the forest) to find her sister in shock and bleeding from her face on the ground. (We also see her underwear around her ankles). Nell vows to kill the man if he ever returns.

Robert's chain saw malfunctions, leaving him with a mortal, bloody gash on his leg. His desperate, grieving daughters are unable to save him, and they cry themselves to sleep on his body, where they awaken the next morning.

A man uses a shotgun to threaten someone. One character falls from high in a tree but is not seriously injured. We see raw, bloody blisters on Nell's hands, as well the bloody, feathery remains of the family's chickens after wild boars massacre the egg-laying fowl. (Nell also has an awful nightmare in which she sees—and we hear—the animals digging up and eating her father's remains.)

Nell shoots one of the animals and proceeds to skin, gut, and section it. We get eyefuls of the boar's skinned form and entrails in the process.

Nell and Eva's house slowly collapses, forcing them to consider other alternatives. (Eventually, they decide that they must leave the mold-filled house, and they burn it down to throw anyone looking for them off the scent.) Eva hurls her metronome in anger, breaking it.

Crude or Profane Language

Jesus' name is taken in vain once, and God's name is abused about 20 times. The s-word is used more than half a dozen times, while the f-word crops up seven or eight times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Early on, one of Robert's friends in town asks him if he wants to have a warm beer. Nell gets drunk while hanging out with her boyfriend and friends at a bonfire. (Her father doesn't say anything about the minor's inebriation.) Later, Eva and Nell get drunk on a foul-smelling bottle of what they call "old people booze." Nell offers Eva their last aspirin after Eva's raped.

Other Negative Elements

Eva vomits into a toilet. We watch as Nell goes to the bathroom.


Into The Forest packs a dramatic, powerful message about the dignity of every human life into an emotionally raw film. It's a slowly unfolding drama that focuses on the relational bond between two sisters who, although they both have their character flaws, ultimately commit to doing whatever is necessary to stay alive together.

Suffice it to say this film is not what I was expecting based on a trailer that makes this under-the-radar indie look more like a harrowing thriller than it actually is.

While brooding, grim, and intensely violent in a handful of spots, this story as whole ultimately nurtures quiet hope—no small feat in what is essentially a post-apocalyptic movie. It gives viewers an intimate glimpse into the emotional journey of two young women dealing with the fallout caused by the end of modern society as we know it.

We don't ever see the world fall apart here—other than gas stations with signs up saying there's no more fuel. Instead, we feel the ripples at the edges of civilization as the shockwaves of its collapse radiate outward. No skyscrapers topple. Instead, we silently observe two fractured souls struggling to come to grips with permanence of their isolated reality.

The film brims with life-affirming messages. Nell is determined to survive in the face of overwhelming odds. Eva, who in many ways is initially the more narcissistic of the two sisters, intuitively understands the value of human life when she learns that she is pregnant—even after she spends the first two-thirds of the film struggling to find meaning and value in her own life apart from the career in dance she'd long to pursue.

Eva's pregnancy inspires her and proves to be a newfound source of strength that ignites not only her hope but also that of her plucky, resourceful sister. It doesn't matter to her that the circumstances facing this new life look dire. The beautiful life—the human being—inside of her gives her hope again.

Hope she hasn't had in quite some time.

Those poignant, impactful messages about the sanctity of life, however, are delivered in a story that rarely glances away from images of sexual intimacy and raw violence when they intermittently occur.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range



Ellen Page as Nell; Evan Rachel Wood as Eva; Callum Rennie as Robert; Max Minghella as Eli; Michael Eklund as Stan; Wendy Crewson as Mom


Patricia Rozema ( )





Record Label



In Theaters

July 29, 2016

On Video

October 4, 2016

Year Published



Jake Roberson

Content Caution

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