Wyatt Rockefeller’s “Settlers”: Film Review

In the 1800s, the American West was considered the last frontier of human exploration. All that changed in 1969 when the crew from Apollo 11 landed on the moon. After that moment, space has since been considered to be the final frontier. What happens though once space has been discovered and colonized like the West was?

Settlers tries to answer that question by marrying the futurism of galactic expansion with the common problems faced by individuals during western expansion in a way that invokes Ridley Scott’s The Martian mixed with a slow-burning Western. The settlers have to not only contend with the indigenous people of the “new” land and brutal weather conditions, but also an environment that is on life support.

The atmosphere has collapsed in many large parts of Mars and only desert stretches for as far as the eye can see. The settlement that the characters find themselves on is the last gasp of life on the barren world. Wyatt Rockefeller’s feature shows that no matter how much further we expand, the human race are not settlers but parasites; destroyers of worlds by feasting on natural resources for temporary conveniences.

In the midst of the savagery fight for survival, lives Remmy (Brooklynn Prince), a young girl who only wants a normal life. She lives for quality time with her parents and occasionally exploring the unknown. Unfortunately, her environment prohibits her from ever fully experiencing that sort of lifestyle. Instead, Remmy is forced to grow up too fast and repeat the mistakes of her ancestors. If there’s a running theme in Settlers, it’s that, in the end, isolation makes parasitic monsters of us all.

The Silver Lining

Brooklynn Prince’s performance as Remmy proves that her breakout role in Sean Baker’s The Florida Project was not a fluke. Prince is able to provide her character with a sense of explorative wonder that helps balance the film’s more pessimistic message about humanity’s selfish nature. The scenes between her and Steve, a canine-like repair robot are touching, akin to something out of a coming-of-age tale. Brooklynn Prince makes such an impact on the film that her absence in the third act due to a time jump almost derails Settlers entirely. By the time the credits roll, Rockefeller’s decision for the time jump ends up making perfect sense, but the movie still struggles without a stellar young actor like Prince taking up the screen.

Brooklynn Prince as “Remmy”. Photo courtesy of IFC Midnight.

Settlers is available now on your favorite Video on Demand platform (Amazon Video, Vudu, etc.)!

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