Tuesday 30 October 2018

I Think We're Alone Now (USA 2018: Dir Reed Morano)

Cinematographer Reed Morano's first directorial offering was the harrowing Meadowland back in 2015. Its sombre tones find some companionship in her latest film (on which she also offers services behind the camera), a post apocalyptic riff on 'Robinson Crusoe.'

Del (Peter Dinklage), who lives in the library where he used to work, before an unspecified event wiped out most of the human race, is methodical in his daily routine of cleaning out houses for spare (canned) food and equipment, marking the streets off with crosses as he completes his forays. Some lovely touches define his situation - watching a series of laptops that he's acquired which successively die as their power fades for example - and in keeping with his former job his life is devoted to the maintenance of order, like using chopsticks to eat food and drinking his wine out of a glass.

But one evening some fireworks let off in another part of the city alert him to the fact that he's not alone, and the search for his 'Man Friday' leads him to Grace (Elle Fanning) who he first meets passed out in a crashed car. His new found friend's rather hedonistic approach to life is in marked contrast to Del's own - he's happy to stay put, while she plans to see all of the country's landmarks - and his initial instinct is to reject her presence, which is too messy and interferes with his routines. When asked whether he feels isolated, the small in stature Des responds that he felt more lonely in a town full of citizens.

But his 'Man Frida' sees through his apparent difference and a relationship of sorts forms between them, with Grace picking up a dog - later released by Des after it chews some of his precious books - and helping him out on his clean up expeditions (in one moving moment happening upon Des's former home, which clearly evokes too many painful memories for him to countenance living there). "With every piece of trash we pick up there's one less case for chaos in the universe," he explains, warding off the threat of entropy, prompting Grace to respond "has anyone ever told you you're a weird guy?" Des's comeback is one of the film's best lines; "Yeah, but they're all dead now."

But a glimpsed vertical scar on Grace's neck, which she keeps covered from Des, alerts us to the fact that all isn't well, and the sudden arrival of a couple (Charlotte Gainsbourg and Paul Giamatti) who both know Grace and want her to return to the west with them - is a massive shock for Des who thought the pair were all alone in the world. It also triggers a crisis of conscience in him. Does Des follow or remain sequestered in his own existence?

Morano's film is, as you would expect, beautifully shot and exquisitely paced, and Des and Grace are well defined characters despite just a few brushstrokes of descriptive dialogue. The casting is excellent; Dinklage's permanently furrowed brow and solemn expression instantly denotes a depth of thought and melancholy, in contrast with the tall, willowy but equally unhappy Fanning, her girl/woman features perfect for the role.

The film lets itself down slightly with a denouement which is perhaps more The Stepford Wives than it should be, but for the most part this is a satisfying exercise in the pleasure and pain of isolation, and ultimately a plea for the right to be miserable. Really, really good.

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