Being the last man on Earth is the epitome of solitude. For most, it sounds like torture. For a select few, however, it can be a blessing in disguise. Maybe you’ve longed for peace and quiet? Perhaps you were an outcast? Whatever the reason, it’s a unique take on an already unique situation. Movies tend to go in the direction of following those desperate to find any semblance of companionship. As such, Reed Morano‘s sophomore feature “I Think We’re Alone Now” treads in rare territory. The film has its shortcomings, but managing to make a protagonist who’s happy to be alone at all likable is a true feat. We expect cinema to be closer to “The Martian” or “The Road,” for example. This goes in a whole other direction, while still ruminating on loneliness.
Morano has made a calling card flick of sorts with “I Think We’re Alone Now,” showcasing how she should be an A-list filmmaker in Hollywood. Her visuals are striking, while the concept of loneliness is initially toyed with in a unique manner. The film ends up stumbling when plot machinations come into play during the third act. Before then, however, the simplicity of her concept works rather well. If this is a more uneven movie than “Meadowland,” it still shows how good she is at her job. You’ll be eager to see what she has up her sleeve next after this one.
For whatever reason, the apocalypse has occurred. As far as Del (Peter Dinklage) is concerned, he’s the only person left alive. Everyone else is a corpse. Del goes from house to house in his town, cleaning up the homes and burying the bodies. That’s become an occupation of sorts for him, with his quiet time spent reading and categorizing books in a library. It’s a simple life, but one that seems to fulfill him more than a sole survivor would conceivably feel. Then, he hears a noise, and suddenly, he’s not alone.
Somehow, Grace (Elle Fanning) has survived and crashed her car in town. He helps her out, but then tries to get rid of her. Despite Del’s reluctance, Grace sticks around. While he wants solitude, she craves companionship. They’re a study in contrasts. Del felt lonely when people were around, feeling invisible. Grace longs for a bond with him. Slowly, they make a good team, increasing his productivity. However, she starts to discover more about his past, which explains a bit about why he is the way he is. Then, the third act begins. The less said about it, the better, but it introduces more characters and falls short of what came before it.
For much of the film’s running time, it’s just Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning on the screen. We all know that the latter is an exciting young actress, but the former gets a rare chance to be a leading man. Dinklage conveys Del’s emotions perfectly, depicting someone so annoyed to have his life disrupted. You may not share his view of the world, but you will sympathize with it. Fanning is the brighter character, slowly opening him up. Their chemistry together is quiet, yet fully realized. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Paul Giamatti also round out the cast, but you’ll have to see the movie to understand how they factor in.
Director Reed Morano, who also serves as the movie’s cinematographer, has an eye for striking images. Her direction is as impressive as in “Meadowland,” just with a larger scale. Unfortunately, the screenplay by Mike Makowsky doesn’t keep up with her work. Makowsky attempts to work in a twist and a narrative expansion that really falls short. It doesn’t torpedo the flick, but it knocks it down a peg for sure. When it’s keeping things intimate, the film is on sturdy ground. The more they focus on loneliness and solitude, the better.
As long as you can set aside the narrative shortcomings, “I Think We’re Alone Now” offers up a largely fascinating character study. Dinklage, Fanning, and Morano turn in work that’s well worth seeing. The movie fell through the cracks a bit at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Now, it may be able to find a place in the world here in September. Give it a shot. While flawed, it ultimately does way more right than it does wrong.