Sundance 2018: Reed Morano's Subtle Sci-Fi 'I Think We're Alone Now'
by Alex Billington
January 22, 2018
There's always room for more light sci-fi, especially when it's something as beautifully crafted as this. I'm a sucker for sci-fi, and this played right to me. Cinematographer turned filmmaker Reed Morano has been on the rise recently, and she has unveiled her second feature film to the world at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Titled I Think We're Alone Now (yes, just like that song, even though she doesn't use it in the film) it's a post-apocalyptic story about a man whose quiet, simple life alone in a small town is interrupted by the arrival of another survivor, a teenage girl. This actually turns out to be almost a "Black Mirror"-esque, almost "Twilight Zone" story that takes a big turn in the middle, and then becomes even more captivating.
At the start we're introduced to a man, played by Peter Dinklage, the only survivor living in a library in a tiny town on the Hudson who manages his simple life by searching for gas and batteries, and cleaning out houses. Suddenly one day arrives Grace, played by Elle Fanning. This dynamic provides for an amusing situation where it's basically a meticulous, reserved, introvert vs a wild, free-spirited, young mind in a post-apocalyptic town. There's some good comedic moments, but it maintains its sci-fi tone with an atmospheric score by Adam Taylor. Then there's a big reveal, as expected with these kind of sci-fi thrillers, and things become even more peculiar and intriguing after. It's better to save this discussion for once you have seen it.
More than anything, I admire the sophisticated filmmaking in I Think We're Alone Now. Morano definitely knows what she's doing and is very skilled in crafting the entire world, and allowing it to breathe through gorgeous cinematography and set design. This film is not full-on, intense science fiction - it's subtle sci-fi, where there are tiny hints of sci-fi elements and little threads of themes, but nothing designed to make you go "wow". This is an indie film, and she works well within those confines to still deliver something big - even though there's only two characters. This is where the "Black Mirror" comparison comes from, as it builds to something that allows the little hidden ideas to become even bigger thoughts to consider and discuss after.
Peter Dinklage gives a strong lead performance as a reserved, quiet man who prefers to be alone. Morano doesn't fall into the typical trap where the sole-survivor talks to himself (so there's some dialogue), he just never speaks, and instead we get to learn about him through his actions and expressions. Once we get into the second half, it gives us something to consider but it could've gone even further. The film falls a bit short there and that is my only real complaint, as everything else is thoroughly satisfying as a post-apocalyptic survivor thriller. There are times where sci-fi doesn't need all the bells & whistles, or embellishments that come with a bigger budget, and this is one of those times. As a big sci-fi fan, I am very happy with this film.
Alex's Sundance 2018 Rating: 9 out of 10
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