Netflix’ “Io” is a minimalistic, quasi-science fiction movie about the end of the world. The CGI and backgrounds are questionable, and the two main characters have a hard time holding viewers’ attention, which is too bad because I like Anthony Mackie. However, what drives me to write this review is the anger I felt at the main character Sam, played by Margaret Qualley, at the end of the film. (Spoilers ahead.)
The Earth is contaminated by ammonia vapors and the entire population has fled to Io, Jupiter’s moon, to find a new planet and build a new life. The entire movie takes place on Earth, so the movie name is a bit of a misnomer, but not so much that it creates cognitive dissonance. Sam, the daughter of a scientist who has claimed that people can adapt to the new atmosphere and urged people not to leave the planet, is the only one left alive as far as she knows. She self-administers some sort of inoculation against the toxic atmosphere.
Her human connection is a man who is already at the Io station. She meets Mackie’s Micah when he lands at her place in a helium balloon. Micah is looking for Sam’s father and headed for the last shuttle off the planet.
In no particular order, she dumps the man on Io, there’s a flashback of her father telling her that the human connection is more important than science, and Micah reinforces that idea when he says people aren’t meant to be alone. Sam acknowledges all of this and agrees to go with Micah to the shuttle. Before that happens though, she seduces Micah overcoming his objections with “we have to.”
And here’s where I get angry. Sam goes to a museum and then tells Micah, she’s not going with him. She sees life on Earth where everyone else sees death. She rips off her mask and survives the toxic atmosphere. Micah leaves the planet. She gives birth to a child, and they go visit the sea. What? Seriously? She’s a scientist working in biology. She should know that women don’t necessarily get pregnant after one session of intercourse. But it can happen, so let’s go ahead and give that to the movie.
Here’s where the movie doesn’t make any sense. When Micah tells Sam that she’s coming with him, she has already gone through the process of convincing herself that’s the only logical plan. She’s lost the bees. She needed help with the windmill. Most importantly, she knows she needs the human connection. She’s accepted that. She says, “Okay,” and that should be that. There is no indication that she has changed her mind about human connection in the rest of the film or that she understands she is pregnant.
There is no sense to her decision, and if she knows she’s pregnant, she makes the most selfish decision available. First, the treatments didn’t work for her father, and administering them to a child would be different. She doesn’t have the expertise or data necessary to insure the survival of the child.
Second, that child is going to grow up, she’s going to die, and the child is going to be alone with no chance for human connection. She is basically sentencing her child to solitary confinement for much of its life – at best, and she’s doing it for no other reason than because she still believes the human species can adapt. Except, the child will not be able to reproduce. He or she (according to the credits, the child is a boy) will be the last person on Earth with no chance to find the human connection beyond the mother-child one. Which brings us to the last point, she cannot on her own establish a new species or a human adaptation to the ammonia with just her child, which begs the question of incest and menopause, if they both survive to his sexual maturity.
I was willing to deal with the long, slow parts of the movie, but to have it conclude so illogically and against the character of the only real characters in the film, was more than disappointing. It was disturbing and enraging.