Review: Biosphere


Ray and Billy have been friends since childhood. Really close friends. So close that Billy refers to them as “brothers from different mothers.” Ray is black. Billy is white.

They even live together, although theirs is not a romantic relationship.

Oh, and one more thing: Billy was President of the United States during the period where a world war basically destroyed the planet. The atmosphere is gone and these two, probably the last two people on earth, have been surviving in a biosphere for several years. Ray was Billy’s science adviser and is responsible for the creation and stocking, such as it is, of the biosphere.

Billy (Mark Duplass), even though he was president, is the lightweight here – think Billy Carter instead of Jimmy Carter. How he got to be president, what triggered armageddon, and a thousand other things are immaterial to the story. Ray (Sterling K. Brown) is the analytical science brain who turned Billy’s scribblings into the highly inadequate biosphere they inhabit.

This sets the story in motion. This two-man play explores the relationship between two very different men thrown together in the most extreme of situations. Billy is the emotional one, lacking in depth or even an interest in operating below the level of the superficial – except for the fraternal love he has for his friend. And Ray is the calm, resourceful adult in the relationship.

But then a strange thing happens. These two are dependent on fish they are raising in a pool just big enough for a sitz bath, which is somehow related to a hydroponic garden about the size of a kitchen window herb greenhouse. They are down to three fish and one dies. Billy doesn’t realize it at first, but that dead fish, which he enjoys for dinner, was the last female – there won’t be any more fish.

Then an even stranger thing happens. The two “guy” fish are OK for a while, but then one begins to change. It turns out, as briany Ray explains, that “Sam” (a talapia, I think) becomes “Sally” through the process called “sequential hermaphroditism.” This is a real thing that does happen to some lower animals during times of stress, especially when mates are hard to find. Before long there are eggs and then small fish.

The next evolutionary step takes place in higher organisms.

This is a gently amusing, heartwarming story that exposes the strengths and weaknesses of two appealing characters as they face disaster, responsibility and finally hope in a shattered world.

Both Duplass and Brown give powerful performances, exposing a lot of humanity under their superficial exteriors.

You will enjoy this story – and then why not treat yourself to a fish dinner. I hear the talapia is delicious.


Director: Mel Eslyn
Writers: Mel Eslyn, Mark Duplass
Producers: Mel Eslyn, Zachary Drucker, Maddie Buis, Shuli Harel
Cinematography: Nathan M. Miller
Editing : Christopher Donlon
Music: Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans
Runtime: One hour, 46 minutes
Availability: Limited theaters and internet, July 7, 2023

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