REVIEW – I Think We’re Alone Now: style wins over substance in post-apocalyptic drama

I Think We’re Alone Now is only Reed Morano’s second directorial feature – the filmmaker is highly regarded for her resume as a cinematographer, and more recently, for directing three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, for which she claimed an Emmy. Three years after her directing debut Meadowland, Morano takes the helm once more to lead a ponderous science-fiction drama starring Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning.

The film begins with a familiar premise – the last man on earth walks the lonely streets of a deserted town. This man is Del (Dinklage), a long-time recluse whose life seems not to have been altered by the sudden inexplicable death of the human race. He spends his days between the local library shelving books, and purging the town of its corpses. In every home he visits, Del sweeps for useful supplies, takes a photo from a frame for his records, and buries the dead before marking the driveway with a painted X. Through his meticulous cleaning, Del maintains a peaceful order to his quiet world. He might be alone, but Del is by no means lonely.

The solitary bliss is shattered by the unexpected arrival of Grace (Fanning), who quite literally crashes into Del’s life when she drunkenly veers off the road outside his house. Del brings the unconscious girl inside and patches her up, but is immediately anguished. Who is she? Where did she come from? And, most importantly, are there others?

Grace proposes Del’s mouthy, irritating antithesis; she longs for the company and conversation he dreads. After initially clashing, Del allows her to stay for a trial period, reluctantly introducing her to his clean-up routine and library haunts. Dinklage and Fanning make an enjoyable team – the comic bickering soon gives way to an unlikely friendship as Del begins to realise the tenderness of having someone to care about. Even in solitude, Dinklage has a powerful presence that commands extended dialogue-free sequences. Despite strong performances, what promises to be a fascinating character study ultimately fails to keep a grip on its own narrative intrigue; a lacklustre script makes for a slow-moving first two acts, and a third that comes out of the left field with a plot twist that neither quite fits with the initial tone, nor presents a rewarding enough climax.

I Think We’re Alone Now finds its strength in its director’s skilled camerawork; Morano’s cinematography frames Del’s introverted world with an empathetic homeliness whilst never quite convincing us of his contentedness. In the absence of electricity in the post-apocalypse, Morano expertly utilises natural light and shadow to create stunning contrasts. The decision for Morano to simultaneously direct and act as DOP is truly a credit to her vision and control in its payoff. However, in an unfortunate prevalence of style over substance, the film boasts a gorgeous aesthetic that begs a rich screenplay to match.

 

By Megan Wilson

Megan Wilson is a northerner currently studying film at King’s College London, and recently completed a semester at the University of Michigan. She is passionate about cats, old musicals, and turtleneck sweaters, but is not in fact an 80-year-old man. Her favourite films include CarolMoonlightSingin’ in the Rain, and Matilda. Find her on Twitter: @bertmacklln

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