There are two ways you could look at Mel Eslyn’s feature debut, Biosphere, which undoubtedly marks the most bizarre project actors as adventurous as Mark Duplass and Sterling K. Brown have ever piloted. You could stew in the despondent prospect that it takes something as existentially extreme as the end of the world for two men to strip down to their truest, most overwhelmingly real selves. Or, you could bask in the beaming warmth of the post-apocalyptic dome that safeguards and nurtures the saplings of hope. Cultivating a sincere synchronicity with its innately freakish themes, Eslyn’s sci-fi comedy designs a magic show. What could it be if not magic when, amidst an ocean of tasteless hijinks passed off as jokes, Biosphere’s elements of humor never exist at the cost of an individual’s identity and insecurities?
Plot Summary: What Happens In ‘Biosphere’ Film?
Billy’s got no other choice but to make a makeshift, sort of self-sustaining dome his entire world, as somehow, as the President of the country, he’s royally screwed the pooch and brought the world to its doom. But Biosphere isn’t about to let the technicalities of Doomsday steal any thunder from the Garden of Eden his closest pal and advisor Ray has created, at the President’s order, of course. The sky has fallen into a deep slumber that seems to have no foreseeable end, but thanks to Ray’s undying obsession with the world of science, Billy and Ray have the dome all to themselves, complete with a little pond that is kept alive by the fish having the time of their lives. But there are only so many babies that Diane, Sam, and Woody can make. You’d name the fish, too, if you were stuck in a dome for years with no hope of ever feeling the air of the outdoors on your skin. The trouble is fish aren’t necessarily known for their persistent survival in a tiny pond. And when Diane, the only female fish they had left, makes for a delicious dinner, the clops of time’s chariot are going to start pounding a lot louder on Billy and Ray’s trembling hearts.
How Did Evolution Change Everything For The Two Friends?
You don’t even have to actively look for reasons to conclude that Billy and Ray are anomalies of their kind when their respective oddities have been staring you in the face all along. It’s not that Ray isn’t pragmatic, but even with tremendous scientific capabilities accounting for his abundance of optimism, not all aspects of it are rooted in his self-efficacy. At the same time, Billy’s gnawing disdain for anything remotely cerebral instantly brings to mind the image of a man who wouldn’t know enough to bother himself too much with the cynical prospects of their future. But unlike Ray, Billy is perpetually haunted by the possibility of the absolute worst.
Luckily for both, Mother Nature takes pity on their horrid circumstances and blesses them with a miracle of sorts. Through Ray’s all-knowing words, we learn that when the circumstances of survival are this dire, evolution can fasten its pace in species that have not been touched by it in a while. And with Billy jumping all over the place, we get to know that sequential hermaphroditism is what’s going to save them from sure demise. In other words, their male fish, Woody, whom they were worried was afflicted by the same disease that took Diane’s life, is growing female reproductive organs just to ascertain that the species doesn’t go extinct. Fun stuff? Not so much for Billy, who’s also been quite under the weather for a while, only to take a peek down south and be met with the horror that his body is changing too.
How Does Billy’s Transition Affect Their Dynamic?
One can hardly imagine the kind of nightmare it is for someone like Billy to lose a part of him that’s sadly been his only source of confidence all his life. So, what if the inherently testosterone-y drive has been a constant in Billy’s life as he’s wrecked everything up, including the planet itself, apparently? You’re still stung by the comical grief of a man burying a statue of the Washington Monument as a symbolic representation of his lost manhood. What’s truly intriguing about the kind of transformation the weird evolution brings about is that Billy’s tantrums and meltdowns are rather short-lived. Joining the bandwagon of intrigue is the staunchly liberal Ray, who may not be as ahead in his game of eluding generational bigotry as he’d believed.
An awkward onslaught of sexual tension is almost inevitable for the last two people alive, with one’s growing femininity becoming a cause for another’s undeniable biological urges to be kindled. While, for the most part, the scientist in Ray has been thrilled and amused by nature’s logic-warping efforts toward keeping its creatures from extinction, the pragmatic nuances of the transformation and the changes it brings to their circumstances catch him off guard. It’s a forced, almost artificially-induced experiment both men have become a part of as they introspect, revolt, and eventually get cornered into working on their proprietary limitations.
Billy never really had to know himself beyond his masculine privileges, which really were nothing more than his volatile attempts at overcompensating for his insecurities as a man. And now that that’s done and dusted with, he’s no choice but to discover himself outside the comfort zone of his orchestration, and the person he transforms into is someone he perhaps wishes he could’ve been when there was more to life than the inside of a dome. As for Ray, someone who’s often taken blatant pride in his progressive mindset, Billy’s transformation opens up a can of worms that he’s long convinced himself didn’t exist. The raging homophobia ingrained in him by the traditional masculine values he’s been brought up with ravages the carefully-curated image he’s made himself and everyone around him believe in.
‘Biosphere’ Ending, Explained: What Is The Significance Of The Bowling Ball?
When darkness has engulfed the world and no other sign of life remains, you wouldn’t want to be stuck in a dome with someone you don’t see eye to eye with. Yet, despite the manifold disputes caused by their inherently differing morals and general outlook on life, Billy and Ray have found a way to make their dynamic work without outbursts. Their individual pasts are hardly of the same significance as the years they’ve spent together. Two little kids whose friendship weathered the storms of their contrasting values became the odd unit of a clueless, supremely egotistic Republican President and his Democrat advisor, who hated living in the former’s shadow.
The fact is, there’s too much love between the two, however, muffled it may be by their discomfort at coming off as unmanly. Why else would a brilliant man such as Ray put his academic explorations and his Democratic values aside to cling to the clueless President who hated being overshadowed by him yet recognized he was essential to his life? Through chirpy banters pointless bickerings, and passive-aggressive silences that invariably end in achingly sweet monologues by the pond, Billy and Ray have practically been soulmates, with love buried within the sediments of fear and insecurities. But if evolution can change its pace, so can Billy and Ray’s emotional growth.
If Woody can fill the pond with little squiggly reminders of hope, it’s only natural that Billy’s biological clock will strike soon enough. It’s not that Ray’s increasing discomfort with breaking out of his mold and the prospect of impregnating his childhood friend isn’t valid; after all, he’s always been straight. But however threatened by the strange newness of it Ray may be, he’s a man of science who’s always believed in the existence of magic. A sweet harmony of riotous irony commemorates their union, for it’s a celebration of hopeful transformation for them both. The hilarity of the blanket with a hole in it aside, their fate was foretold by ‘The Kiss Of The Spider Woman,’ the book that, much to his horror, Billy was far more engrossed in than he would have liked. And that’s not all. The inexplicable green light that challenged the darkness of what was once the sky showed up just when Billy and Ray were about to become one of the wildest experiments of nature and its unpredictable quirks. It might as well have been a grand design of nature and a sign of its formidable resilience against all odds when the light’s growth matched its pace with the growing intimacy between the two friends.
As Billy’s corny and rather ironic Jurassic Park reference said, ‘Life finds a way.’ And so it does, with an 8-pound miracle child growing within Billy’s brand-new womb. But transformation is seldom linear. Ray’s unlikely faith in magic has, time and again, caused mild conflicts and rather loud altercations between him and his friend, who’s always been a cynic. Something as silly as a magician manifesting an actual bowling ball out of thin air at Ray’s 8th birthday party left a consequential impact on Ray. Since then, Ray has not only believed in the existence of magic, even as a man of science but also induced all of his theories and experiments with the same boost of hope. Billy, on the other hand, couldn’t afford to have faith in anything he couldn’t explain lest it disrupt the house of cards that was his entire existence. For a man whose identity itself was teetering on fickle values and haunting insecurities, the biological transformation came as a blessing he had to work hard to be worthy of.
Luckily, during Biosphere‘s ending, Billy’s transcended his denial of hearing the thud of the bowling ball and became a man who had enough hope to lend some to his friend, who’s been losing his light of late. And like Billy’s sudden change, which in fact seemed like a daunting curse at first, the peculiar storm in the ending sequence, the strange phenomenon in a world that supposedly lost its very atmosphere, turns their dome into shambles, leading Ray to believe they may be doomed. However badly Ray’s always wanted to believe that he is the Mario to Billy’s Luigi, they’ve both taken turns leading the ship, albeit unevenly. And now that the man who mostly pulls his weight is the one who’s ready to succumb to logical hopelessness, Billy steps up as the flagbearer of magic, wielding a pad of white pages, ready to draw the bowling ball and wish it into existence. If the sky itself could show hues of rebirth and a man could grow a womb to further his species, who’s to say that Billy, Ray, and their “8-pound bowling ball of magic” couldn’t still live to see a better day? The thud you hear in the end is symbolic of the newfound faith in magic Billy has grown to embrace and now hopes to reignite in his friend and the father of his child.