There is something fascinating about the ‘last man on Earth’ (or ‘supposed last man on Earth’) story. One inevitably wants to know what has happened to the Earth, where everyone else has gone, and why he (it’s usually a he) has survived and is still there. Sometimes the answers are revealed, and sometimes one just has to keep on wondering. And sometimes the story is more about the process than the plot. So it is with I Think We’re Alone Now, an odd one hour and 33 minutes of sci-fi mystery drama, written by Mike Makowsky, directed by Reed Morano, and starring Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning.
Dinklage plays Del, seemingly the only survivor on Earth after an event has wiped out the rest of the human race, apparently leaving them as dessicated corpses. As expected, there are lots of long, quiet shots, establishing the emptiness, as well as a montage that shows what Del does to keep himself occupied all day. Which, in this case, is systematically clearing houses of bodies, burying them, and making a record of the dead. It’s grim work, but Del treats it matter-of-factly, and actually seems quite content to be alone. So it’s something of a shock for him when teenager Grace (Fanning) rocks up, and demands that he let her stick around.
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I Think We’re Alone Now is largely an ‘odd couple’ story, with childlike and spirited Grace grating on the nerves of grumpy and cynical recluse Del. She’s not a child, but she’s not quite an adult either, and it’s a difficult situation for forty-something Del to negotiate. Her arrival may be the end of the world for Del; she is the chaos of the film’s tag-line, and the clashing ‘we’re/alone’ of the title. The film is also a musing, in the vein of The Quiet Earth, on life and death; value; and what a person prioritises when they presume that they are the only survivor in a post-apocalyptic world, and how they then react when their new-found beliefs are thrown into question. There is a little more to I Think We’re Alone Now than this, but nothing that can be revealed ahead of actually viewing the film.
The pacing of the story is slow, although by no means dragging, and very much focused on daily routine or the deviation from the new norm. The tone is serious, and a little angry in places, but with no light relief or comic aspects. There is also a low-key sense of menace that persists throughout. Dinklage and Fanning are more than capable actors, and yet Del and Grace never feel much more than surface characters, their reactions not really rooted in anything (although who can really say how one might react when one is the last man or woman on earth?). Neither of them elicits much empathy or other emotion in the viewer, and this can be problematic in such a slow-paced story, as interest begins to wane. The script is fine, but nothing spectacular, and nothing even really new or unexpected. It feels as though it must be building to something but ultimately leaves the viewer a little deflated, thinking ‘is that all?’.
Overall, I Think We’re Alone Now is quietly enjoyable enough, but it certainly won’t explode your world.
Post-apocalyptic drama I Think We’re Alone Now releases nationwide in the UK on 19 November.