Nicholas Ashe Bateman’s ambitious debut breaks away from the recent crop of fantasy epics based on existing materials. A mass of tangled storylines spanning decades envelops Anmaere, a post-apocalyptic world containing two cities named Whithren and Levithen, both of which are in a perpetual state of stagnancy. The citizens of the sweltering Whithren dream of escaping to Levithen, a journey made possible only by earning a coveted ticket on one of the ferries that transport horses to the elusive, snow-capped land.
Despite Withren’s industrial griminess, the sun once shone on this forsaken land. Memories of better days haunt the city’s inmates – even those who were born after the mysterious events that cast Anmaere into darkness, the details of which are never specified. And while The Wanting Mare is able to create spectacular visuals out of limited means – it was largely shot in a New Jersey warehouse – the weak script offers little of emotional substance, as it haphazardly jumps from one character to another. Barely any time is paid to the doomed romance between Moira (Ashleigh Nutt), an orphaned loner, and Lawrence (played by Bateman himself), a wounded thief, before the film fast-forwards to the former’s children, who are struggling to break free decades later.
New side characters are introduced and quickly discarded ahead of a reunion between the former lovers, which proves to be one of the film’s more coherent moments: they are actually allowed to speak at some length of lost dreams and regrets over the span of the third act. But in the end, The Wanting Mare is so invested in creating a dazzling atmosphere that it fails to grasp that, even in a world empty of hope, the interior life of its characters is still more interesting than visually impressive rubble and ruins.