Sundance 2018: I Think We’re Alone Now, by David Bax
Reed Morano’s I Think We’re Alone Now is a highly polished objet d’art, shot in stunning widescreen with sound design mixed in Dolby Atmos. With its crepuscular compositions and its studied patience, it’s often quite beautiful to behold. Inside, though, it’s more like a bag of potato chips: Only half full.
Peter Dinklage plays Del, the only survivor of some sort of mass extinction event in a small New England town. He spends his endless free time cleaning up the homes of the deceased, throwing out their food, collecting their batteries and burying their bodies. Everyone he ever knew may be dead but he’s content. Then a young woman named Grace (Elle Fanning) shows up, setting off fireworks and crashing cars, ruining his solitary paradise.
I Think We’re Alone Now is at its strongest during its opening, a long, wordless sequence of Del going about his new routine. This dialogue-free depiction of a man dedicated to the task at hand is reminiscent of the beginning of There Will Be Blood. Unfortunately, that’s not the last time the movie will likely remind you of something better. The premise (not to mention the re-appropriation of homes and vehicles meant for other people) calls to mind Will Forte’s series The Last Man on Earth. And the fact that Del moves himself into the library seems like a direct homage to the Twilight Zone episode, “Time Enough at Last,” which also concerned a loner not particularly upset to see the rest of mankind gone.
Dinklage has always excelled at dry, jaded comedy. His work here is certainly no exception. His wryness, along with the joyful recklessness Fanning brings to Grace, keep the movie from being as somber as its subject matter suggests it could be.
Though most of the drama comes from the personality clash of Del and Grace, there is, eventually, more of a science fiction twist to the story. If you’re expecting Morano to come out and say what year it’s supposed to be (the production design is conspicuously retro), don’t hold your breath; all those tube televisions and vintage eyeglasses may just be an affectation. But if you’re expecting her to fulfill the potential of the mysteries she introduces–well, don’t get your hopes up about that either. I Think We’re Alone Now is mostly a stylistic exercise that happens to have two great actors in the middle of it. Too bad it doesn’t know what to do with them.