Reed Morano’s somber, enlightening I Think We’re Alone Now is something like Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World, only less comic and with the apocalypse already arrived. It’s still basically a two-hander, led by Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning as two people looking for comfort in a world that’s gone to shit. Twists and turns abound, and while the screenplay by Mike Makowsky loses control ultimately, Morano’s subtle direction and the performances by her stars are the film’s highlight.
Dinklage plays Del, a quiet man in a small town where everyone has been wiped out due to some unseen apocalyptic event. With nothing else to do he spends the time going into the town’s homes, removing any essentials (Batteries are of utmost importance), and burying the dead. By the time we meet him, Del has already buried nearly everyone, a monumental task. He’s made a home for himself inside the local library, and spends his nights cataloging the books, drinking wine, catching the fish he’s caught, and reading. It’s as if he’s living the best life he always would have led if left to his own devices, and now he has the chance to do it. He may be alone, but he’s far from lonely.
When Grace (Elle Fanning) literally crashes at his doorstep, it throw’s Del’s world upside down. An actual living, breathing human being. While the rest of us would be ecstatic, perhaps terrified, by the sudden realization we aren’t alone in the world, Del just seems irritated. She’s young, energetic, and desperate for human contact, but he just wants her to leave. Making clear that he was more lonely when the town’s 1600 residents were still around, he cautiously takes her in on a trial basis.
It’s funny that this one guy has the temerity to act as if the entire town somehow belongs to him, but that’s just one of the many observations made as these two people try to co-habitate. Their differences, from their age to her taking in stray pets (They have a funny conversation about a goldfish’s lifespan) and blaring loud music (including hip-hop classic “Livin’ Proof” by Group Home!), are what drive the narrative. While some may try to force conflict or comedy to propel the momentum forward, Morano keeps with a deliberate pace that some may find too slow. For me it worked beautifully, giving Fanning and Dinklage time to really sink into their roles. Sometimes the best direction is to simply give your stars room to breathe and do the work. Having launched her career as DP on films such as The Skeleton Twins and Frozen River, Morano uses natural light to produce a number of indelible images.
Where the film falters is in a final act twist that changes things around once again, but it’s introduced so deep into the story that it disrupts what had been working so well. We’re so emotionally invested in the little world created by Del and Grace that what occurs has little chance of keeping our attention the same way. It’s not bad, by any means, but I found myself wishing for the status quo to return.
I Think We’re Alone Now sadly doesn’t include the Tiffany track we all associate with that title, a misstep I hope Morano corrects at some point. Come on, you can find a place for it! Regardless of this oversight, Morano shows a ton of promise as a director. While some may come seeking the post-apocalyptic aspect, it’s really a story about people and how much we need one another, especially when we most want to be left alone.