Our story begins in darkness, a long minute of darkness that seems even longer. We hear voices, television voices that report news, shout warnings, cry and call out. Radios crackle with news of disaster.

We soon learn that more than honor and love are vanquished; the entire planet has been vanquished — suddenly and horribly.

Planes drop from the sky, the pilots taken suddenly by death. Cars careen off of highways into rivers. Buses crash into one another. We don’t see it; we just hear it in the darkness in frantic bursts of garbled voices.

But this we know: The human race is gone, vanished. Bodies are found in cars and beds, rivers and laundromats, movies theaters and sidewalk cafes. It all happens in darkness, and we’re left to envision the chaos for ourselves.

Humankind is extinct, but for two.

Here in this snowy wilderness, we find our Astraea (Nerea Duhart), a 16-year-old girl who boasts of clairvoyant visions, soft at first, then growing into deep and vivid dreams. With her is her half brother Matthew (Scotty Crowe), older and taller, strong and protective.

But unlike other cataclysmic films of The End, here we find our survivors inching through the frozen wilderness of Maine, toward what Astraea’s visions tell her are survivors of her family who have fled into Nova Scotia.

Deep in the wilderness they come upon James and Callie (Dan O’Brien and Jessica Cummings), a young couple, survivors from the south, who have started a new life in this abandoned village on the edge of a frozen Maine lake. They are a warm and welcoming pair, and Matthew senses this might be an Eden of sorts where they can all start anew. But four in Eden?

Still, Astraea, haunted by her visions, wants to go on. For the time being, Astraea and brother set up in a nearby home. Commuting through the woods, the foursome share meals and plunder the local shops for food, medicines and tools.

All seem to be adjusting, but to what? Modern millennials sans laptops and cells, making like pioneers in the 18th century, with the past erased and an uncertain future, with disease and death just behind them. Really?

This is not a sci-fi post-apocalyptic shock movie full of aliens and creatures. Still, dangers lurk, both psychological and physical, spiritual and in Astraea’s dreams.

“Astraea” is a hot movie on the independent film festivals here and abroad, and well deserving of box office welcomes everywhere. Each actor, a pro from the independent film world, is jewel perfect. Ashlin Halfnight’s script is tight, well structured and paced. Director Kristjan Thor seems to know his Maine woods well, and his actors even better. Each actor here, but for newcomer Duhart, also share producing credits.

There is another star here, and that’s Matthew Mendelson, the cinematographer. “Astraea” is just one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. The snowy woods by moonlight, the lakes and hillsides, the fire and candlelit rooms, all are stunning.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see this small budget independent on the Oscar list come spring.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.

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