Director/Photography – Reed Morano, Screenplay – Mike Makowsky, Producers – Fred Berger, Peter Dinklage, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Fernando Loureiro, Mike Makowsky & Roberto Vasconcellos, Music – Adam Taylor, Visual Effects Supervisor – Lesley Robson-Foster, Special Effects Supervisor – Johann Kunz, Production Design – Kelly McGehee. Production Company – Automatik Productions/Lonely Child Productions/Estuary Films.
Peter Dinklage (Del), Elle Fanning (Grace), Paul Giamatti (Patrick), Charlotte Gainsbourg (Violet)
Following the apocalypse, Del is the only survivor in a small town. He lives at the library and spends his time methodically moving through the town, searching for supplies and burying the dead. One day, his idyll is interrupted by Grace who crashes in a car. Del takes her home and tends her back to health. Grace joins Del in his ritual of cleaning up the town. Though Del prefers to be a loner, a gradual friendship grows between the two of them. However, Grace has not told him the real reason she is there.
I Think We’re Alone Now was the second film for Reed Morano who had previously directed Meadowland (2015) and subsequently went on to make the acclaimed The Rhythm Section (2020). Outside of that, Morano has found her employ as a cinematographer since the early 2000s.
The post-apocalyptic film has gone in some interesting directions in the 2010s. In-between traditional throwbacks like Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and a body of more grimly focused works like The Road (2009), we’ve had distinctive and original works like Snowpiercer (2013), Embers (2015), Light of My Life (2019) and experimental works such as Crumbs (2015) and We’ve Forgotten More Than We Ever Knew (2016). There have been a variety of these – see examples such as Last Night (1998), 4:44 Last Day on Earth (2011), Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012) and Only (2019) – that see the apocalypse or approaching end of the world as an opportunity for a relationship drama. In many of these films, there is no explanation of what caused the apocalypse – we presume some type of viral threat that has killed people without causing mass destruction. (For a more detailed overview of the genre see After the Holocaust Films).
That said, this is a film less about the apocalypse and primarily one about the relationship between Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning. This doesn’t strike you as the most gainly of relationships. For one, Dinklage was 49 when the film was being made, while Fanning was twenty – over half of his age. Wisely, the film sticks with a platonic friendship and doesn’t try to build it into a romance apart from a single brief scene where she gives him a kiss.
Even then their personalities seem entirely opposed. Dinklage’s most famous role was as the sly-witted and randy Tyrion Lannister on tv’s Game of Thrones (2011-9). He has chosen the part here seemingly as one that is at 180 degrees remove from that – misanthropic and socially reticent, obsessed with order and detail – while she is cast as a pixie-ish free spirit that enters into that world.
I Think We’re Alone Now takes a long time to engage. From the initial description, you expect it to be a sparkling comedy about the attraction between oddball characters in the ruins of civilisation. We follow Dinklage around for a reasonable time before the introduction of Fanning. Even when she enters, the film remains dour. Dialogue is subdued, the film is often occupied by silences and nothing much seems to happen, least of all in any dramatic sense. There is certainly a complete lack of action of any sort.
The film does pick up considerably in its second half, largely by giving Peter Dinklage’s character some purpose and drive. The entrance of Paul Giamatti and Charlotte Gainsbourg creates some drama and we cheer Dinklage on as he sets out in his subsequent cross-country quest. His arrival in California does come with the introduction of a bizarre left-field science-fictional device that erases memories of bad things and helps people forget about the unspecified holocaust – an idea that is not uninteresting and could have led to many possibilities but is not granted nearly enough screen time – before a happy fadeout.