'Alone' ('Seuls'): Film Review
Director David Moreau ('Them,' 'It Girl') adapts the popular French comic book series about five teenagers trying to survive in a world of their own.
Offering up a French twist on the ever-popular dystopian teen movie, Alone (Seuls) follows five Gallic kids who wake up one day to find they’re the only people left on earth. It’s an awfully familiar premise — picture 28 Days Later without the zombies or The Fifth Wave without the wave — that director David Moreau takes to mostly familiar places, struggling to be either original or convincing for most of the running time, until a Sixth Sense-style finale tries to justify everything that just happened.
Made on a rather tight budget of €6 million ($6.3 million), this Studiocanal-backed adaption of the best-selling French comic book is not without certain minor thrills, and some of the VFX work is impressive enough to convince you that the film could be a veritable blockbuster. But a lot of Alone feels like somebody took a bunch of mediocre Hollywood movies, shoved them into Google Translate and let the result run its course — an approach that has yielded only modest returns at home, with possibilities for small showings in other Francophone lands.
Along with director Xavier Palud, Moreau made two horror flicks (the scary Them and the unscary The Eye) before branching out on his own with the breakout comedy It Girl, starring the indelible pair of Pierre Niney and Virginie Efira. Here he’s back on rather familiar, if shaky, ground, working with Guillaume Moulin to concoct a workable plot out of Fabien Vehlmann and Bruno Gazzotti’s 10-part comic series, with the screenwriters going so far as to set up a sequel that will likely never be made.
A compact opening introduces us to roughshod teenager Leila (Sofia Lesaffre), who gets in a fight at school and winds up at a local amusement park, where she takes a ride on one of those nausea-inducing whirligigs. The next morning, she crawls out of bed to find that her parents and everyone else in her anonymous French city are gone. Eventually, she teams up with a multicultural crew — the thuggish Dodji (Stephane Bak) and the nerdy trio of Terry (Jean-Stan du Pac), Yvan (Paul Scarfoglio) and Camille (Kim Lockhart) — to try and survive their brave, new, empty world.
The setup is far from groundbreaking, but the real problem is that Moreau hardly takes it anywhere interesting, with the gang spending most of the story holed up in a luxury hotel and trying to escape a knife-wielding killer, a menacing drone and a mysterious crossbow sniper, as if they were playing a live-action video game. There is basically zero character development and few attempts to crack the mystery about why everyone else has disappeared. And the dialogue, delivered as if the kids were rehearsing a class play, feels so unnatural that it’s hard to believe anything onscreen, however high the level of fantasy.
Not that suspension of disbelief is always necessary to enjoy a film, but Moreau seems to be operating in pure movie-mode at all times, with the result that it all feels rather fake. There are, however, a few bravura moments of action, with DP Nicolas Loir using extreme close-ups to convey Leila’s inner turmoil in the face of the unknown, and a handful of well-rendered scenes showing her city engulfed by a deadly cloud of smoke. Yet such highlights cannot compensate for the lack of depth here, while a major third-act twist winds up recalling both M. Night Shyamalan and other franchises like The Hunger Games and Divergent. In the end, the only thing that feels truly fresh about Alone is that it's been made in France.
Production company: Echo Films
Cast: Sofia Lesaffre, Stephane Bak, Jean-Stan du Pac, Paul Scarfoglio, Kim Lockhart, Thomas Doret
Director: David Moreau
Screenwriters: David Moreau, Guillaume Moulin, based on the comic book Seuls by Fabien Vehlmann and Bruno Gazzotti
Producer: Abel Nahmias
Executive producer: Aude Cathelin
Director of photography: Nicolas Loir
Production designer: Gwendal Bescond
Costume designers: Elise Bouquet, Reem Kuzayli
Editor: Guillaume Houssais
Casting: Guillaume Moulin, David Baranes