Directed by Jonathan Helpert, “IO” was released on Netflix. Originally set to star Ella Fanning and Diego Luna, the film’s lead roles were ultimately filled by Margaret Qualley and Anthony Mackie due to the departure of the former two. This post-apocalyptic-themed film arrived quietly and faded into obscurity without much discussion. It is not a film that will be widely talked about or remembered. However, I have a reason for discussing this film. What the film aims to convey is striking: the only thing keeping us on this planet is what we create here.
Let’s briefly touch upon the plot. The world has become uninhabitable. Humanity, despite warnings, has devastated the Earth and fled to IO, one of Jupiter’s moons, like reckless monsters. Poisonous air now covers cities and their surroundings, but life still persists in open areas. Sam is one of the minorities who live in these open spaces and refuses to leave the Earth. Sam believes that the world can still be restored and follows in her father’s footsteps, turning to science and nature in search of a solution.
Despite the harsh conditions, Sam has established a life for herself, believing that she can use bees and a combination of nature and science to heal the Earth. Simultaneously, she exchanges messages with her boyfriend working on IO, rejecting the calls to leave in the hope that the experiment he is involved in will succeed. However, a sudden storm disrupts her routine. Just when she believes all is lost, a man arrives in a balloon from the sky and informs her that he will take her to the last departing rocket. Despite the attraction between them, their agreements, and the risks they take for the balloon, Sam cannot bring herself to leave the Earth and chooses to die. The end.
But I’m not concerned with the film’s science; I’m focused on its idea. Sam frequently visits an art museum located in the contaminated zone. Despite being born in the aftermath of the world’s collapse and lacking any formal education or knowledge of art, she admires these artworks with an almost irrational passion. Notably, she is drawn to paintings and Greek myths. Although she doesn’t understand what they represent, their aesthetic aspects captivate her, and she visits them every day. Sam is so moved by the works of humanity that she cannot bring herself to abandon them, even though they seem to be forsaken. Leaving behind the labor of centuries, the effort of centuries seems unbearable for Sam.
Those heading to IO have left Earth without any regard for the devastation they caused. These individuals will wreak havoc wherever they go. Nothing will change. Those who care about this world are the creators, the ones who want to produce. Imagine, one day, the world will truly reach a point of abandonment. Are you not going to find it difficult to leave behind something that has been done in this world? Paintings, sculptures, music, films… A significant part of them will be left behind. They will be forgotten as if they never existed. For some people, this will undoubtedly be very challenging. Sam, too, will struggle to leave behind the art created by humanity over thousands of years. She is one of those who will not be able to leave Rodin, Caravaggio, Bach, or Kubrick.
In the final episode of the series “Childhood’s End,” the world has been destroyed, and aliens are taking the last person on Earth. The last remaining girl has one request:
“Please leave something. Let it not be as if humanity never existed.”
The aliens leave the music of the old world behind and depart. Someday, a spaceship passing through those parts will hear that music, and someone will say, “People with their own tastes and experiences once lived here.”
In conclusion, “IO” may construct its narrative around a classic post-apocalyptic universe, but it essentially harbors a profound theme. If, one day, we indeed find ourselves in a situation where we must leave the Earth, what will we take with us? While individuals may personally select what they want to take, I don’t believe the government or whichever institution organizes the departure will put art on their list. The character Sam, portrayed by Margaret Qualley, is one who cannot leave the art that humanity has created over thousands of years. Art fuels her hope that she can somehow heal the world because she understands the value of what she will leave behind.
Cast & Crew
director: Jonathan Helpert
writers: Clay Jeter, Charles Spano, Will Basanta
starring: Margaret Qualley, Anthony Mackie
USA | 2023 | 146 MINUTES |