This year has been a filled with richer female-driven films, and it’s going to be a photo finish for any year-end kudos. With solid work from Blythe Danner and Lily Tomlin (which could have been slam dunks in previous years, mind you) getting unfortunately left out already, and clear leads egregiously aiming for Supporting consideration, we finally have the photo-finish lineup we usually see in Best Actor. Year-end catch-up can often yield a robust surprise, and you should make time for a forgotten gem of the summer: Margot Robbie in Craig Zobel’s post-apocalyptic adaptation of Z for Zachariah.
Her sharp-shooting trophy wife of The Wolf of Wall Street is unrecognizable to her unwordly farm-girl Ann in Zachariah. Her evident versatility lends the quiet and nuanced performance an edge upon which the film hinges – with plot moments developing slowly, every crucial relationship discovery and complication is plain on Robbie’s subtly expressive face. Unassuming, but fiercely present with her adept scene partners Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine, she sells Ann’s naive sexual awakening without getting lost in the film’s more overt themes.
Perhaps being ignored because the film is too unobtrusive and relaxed in its observations of primal human interaction to register against weightier fare at this time of year, Zachariah is at its most immediate when focused on Robbie’s precise acting choices. It may be less blatant, but her work is never undercooked. With a field of more showy emoting, it’s refreshing to see a lead actress performance as fully-realized, but with more delicate intentions.