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If I Think We’re Alone Now were an episode of Black Mirror, it would be the runt of the season. Dramatically and philosophically void and unprovocative on the grand scale of apocalyptic speculative fiction, this low-budget indie is somber and dreary on a moment-to-moment basis and leaves its talented cast stranded with few opportunities to alleviate the sense of stasis. Despite the names involved, this will have a hard time going anywhere commercially.
What’s happening throughout the rest of the world is uncertain, but lifeless desolation has becalmed New York’s Hudson Valley. The only thing disrupting the stillness is Del (Peter Dinklage), a bearded fellow who grimly sets about trying to tidy things up and dispose of the corpses that, Del aside, seem to be all that’s left of the human population.
For reasons of his own, or perhaps from a sense of some unforeseen posterity, Del is dourly obsessed with restoring order. He devotes himself to meticulous record-keeping, collecting batteries and placing library books back on their proper shelves. So consumed is he with his routine, which includes a nightly dinner with wine at dusk overlooking the river, that he seems annoyed when another survivor, a lithe young woman named Grace (Elle Fanning), turns up.
Grace is as chatty as he is succinct. You’d think the man would be happy and encouraged to learn that he’s not the last person on Earth, but he’s mostly curt and, at best, grudgingly tolerant of her. When Grace presumes to ask Del what he thinks has happened and why, his only response is, “It doesn’t matter.”
Some small but encouraging signs of life pop up from time to time: Grace finds a small dog and Del catches two fish they eat for dinner. But by and large, things remain largely uneventful and — it has to be said — quite boring for a full hour, until a significant twist in the plot.
It’s hard to figure what induced director Reed Morano, who did such a fine job directing the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale last season, to take on such a script, one so devoid of surprise, intriguing notions and compelling scenes. The ennui even extends to her cinematography, which is dominated by blown light, indistinct details and foregrounds so dark that faces and objects in close-ups are barely visible against brighter backgrounds. You often feel compelled to squint to make out what’s onscreen.
Under the circumstances, there’s little Dinklage and Fanning can do to keep this ship afloat; nothing, in fact.
Production company: Automatik Entertainment
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Elle Fanning
Director-director of photography: Reed Morano
Screenwriter: Mike Makowsky
Producers: Fred Berger, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Fernando Loureiro, Roberto Vasconcellos, David Ginsberg
Production designer: Kelly McGeehee
Costume designer: Mirren Gordon-Crozier
Editor: Madeleine Gavin
Music: Adam Taylor
Venue: Sundance Film Festival (U.S. Dramatic Competition)
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