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Saturday, May 7, 2011

AO: The Last Neanderthal (2010, French)

Directed: Jacques Malaterre
Cast: Simon Paul Sutton, Craig Morris, Aruna Shields
Genre: History

Plot: An attempt to unravel the mysterious disappearance of an entire species some 30,000 years ago – the Neanderthal.

Ao, le dernier Néandertal - AO: The Last NeanderthalThe movie is set around the last days of the Neanderthal. Most of them are dying of a strange illness – which actually is a result of increase in global temperature and other climatic changes. 
Homo-Sapiens is a young species thriving in the new changing climate. Some of them are even killing scattered Neanderthals. 

Ao (Simon Paul), a Neanderthal, is leader of a small nomadic clan. He is a fierce hunter but together with his clan lives in harmony with surrounding nature and animals. As a rule, Neanderthals only take from nature what can be easily replenished.  

While Ao is away, a group of Homo-Sapiens murders his entire clan along with his wife and newborn daughter Nea. Ao soon hunts down the killers but can’t bring himself to kill them as he isn’t a murderer. 
All alone now, Ao journeys across Europe in search of his home, and brother from whom he was separated in his youth--a tradition where Neanderthal clans exchange their young ones to maintain peace.
In his long journey he is given the snub by most he meets due to his ape-like features, and is feared for his colossal strength. He is captured by a Homo-Sapiens tribe where he falls in love with a Homo-Sapien woman, Aki (Aruna Shields) who is pregnant. Aki has been imprisoned by her clan for sacrifice. Ao helps Aki and sees Nia in her newborn.

Ao fights for his survival, and to protect his loved ones. With help of Aki’s herbology he even overcomes the strange illness. He wants to take the cure to his brother as well and finally reaches home only to realize his brother and entire clan has already been consumed by the illness.  
Ao realizes he is probably the only one of his kind left. Aki along with her daughter Nea decide to live with Ao, away from other quarreling clans. Ao interacts with nature and animals -- he can understand what ‘wind’ says and on his wail wild mares come out to feed a hungry human child. He is happy that Neanderthal ways will live-on through Nea.

In the end movie puts up a very valid question – How long will Homo-Sapiens survive or are we the end of evolution?

It is a low budget movie and at times camera even dwindles a bit (e.g. Ao’s fight with Polar bear scene). Though overall camerawork is very commendable and beautifully captures a 30,000 years old Europe. Make artist have done a great job and narration is fair.

Despite a promising plot director fails to capture your imagination for long, and acting at best is average.

Watch it if you enjoy prehistoric period movies.


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