Film Review – I Think We’re Alone Now

Official Movie Poster

Genre: Drama/Sci-fi

Starring: Peter Dinklage, Elle Fanning

Released: 21 January 2018

Director: Reed Morano

Production: Automatik Entertainment, Exhibit Entertainment et al.

**SPOILER ALERT**

Synopsis

Del is alone in the world. After the human race is wiped out, he lives in his small, empty town, content in his solitude and the utopia he’s methodically created for himself — until he is discovered by Grace, an interloper whose history and motives are obscure. And to make matters worse, she wants to stay.

Google. https://g.co/kgs/sCh7zM

I watched this on Netflix (UK)

I came to know Peter Dinklage’s work, as so many other have, through Game of Thrones. Then I saw him in Death At A Funeral and Elf, both roles which I thoroughly enjoyed him in. I hadn’t heard of I Think We’re Alone Now; just found it whilst surfing through Netflix.

After watching, I looked up a couple of reviews; they weren’t very positive, and I wondered what critics were expecting when they saw Dinklage was starring in a post-apocalyptic drama. I went in with no expectations.

**SPOILERS**

It’s post-apocalypse America and Del is alone in a small town; believing himself the last man alive after some unspecified event that has caused everyone to die – quite quickly it seems, and some months prior to these events. Del has settled into a routine in the library where he works, still collecting and cataloguing books, as well as cleaning up the deceased and their homes. We see a man who has respect for the dead – or do we? – who quietly enters homes, tidies up, empties fridges of their rotten contents, disinfects around, and then wraps the bodies he finds and takes them on his truck to be buried outside of town.

Del in the homes of the dead

It appears to be a peaceful existence; even in his solitude. He lives in the library and maintains a routine of cooking, eating, washing (he even brushes his teeth), fishing, maintaining the library (for whom?), and burying the dead. It’s a semblance of normalcy, we understand that this is how a man alone can stay sane.

Then Grace arrives. She is young, brash and upsets the routine that Del has built. When Grace accompanies Del on one of his ‘corpse clean-ups’, she watches how he dumps the bodies in the ground and tells him that her father was a preacher, that when she passed bodies on her way here she held her breath. They begin a routine of silence and breath-holding from then on.

Grace

We know next to nothing about Del’s and Grace’s previous lives, only what they choose reveal to each other. Del seems self-contained and content in contrast to Grace’s head-banging restlessness, and I think that’s how it should be; we are watching them through each other’s eyes. However, a tiny glimpse into Del’s previous existence comes in the poignant reply to when Grace asks if Del ever gets lonely, he replies, “You know what? I’ll tell you when I felt lonely. I felt lonely when it was me and 1,600 other people in this town. I was pretty fucking lonely.”

The main oddity is when Grace is sorting her hair looking in a mirror – she has a recent scar on the back of her neck.

And then Grace’s parents turn up. Del, unhappy at the initial intrusion, now exhibits signs of agitation. Grace had told him there was no-one else alive. Grace had told him her parents were dead – Grace lied. Her father finds Del, in his quiet solitude, in the library, and tells him he should join them out on the West Coast, they have doctors who are doing things with the human mind, cutting edge stuff, the loneliness of being outside ‘the fold’. They whisk Grace off,; but not before Grace desperately tell him these people are not really her parents, and Del is alone again.

Peter Dinklage as Del

Predictably, Grace has touched a part of Del that remembers/needs human contact. He sets out to find/rescue her. There is no-one as he drives for days across the country. He swaps his vehicle at each road blockage; where bodies lie desiccating inside cars, in dust-blown towns, until he finally drives over a rise and sees the lights of a large town. Stunned, he locates the house (Grace’s ‘father’ wrote it inside one of the library books) and Grace, who is wired up to some monitor device, filled with tubes and stuff, which Del releases her from.

Downstairs, they are met by the ‘father’, who does little to stop them, but tells Del that in the same way Del is keeping his town clean, they are doing the same here – but with the citizens! “They don’t have to remember what happened before. They don’t have to live in the past. There’s no before. There’s only from now on. Isn’t that beautiful? To not have to remember anything?”

It’s kind of creepy; as is he, so it’s a delight when Grace kills him. As Del and Grace drive off, we get a Stepford Wives moment – slo-mo citizens going about their beautiful lives, in beautiful sunshine; jogging, gardening, drinking beer on the lawn, smiling and content.

I know some people felt cheated that this film turned out to NOT be a last man in the world scenario. But we have seen lots of post-apocalypse stuff, and lots of man/woman alone against the odds and I think this film makes us adjust our attitude to togetherness – it’s not about survival after a disaster, its about connectedness and that, now cliché quote of John Donne’s, ‘No man is an island’. Despite Del thinking he can cope, and has made a lovely little routine, and thinks he is happy – he isn’t really, and Grace reminds him that man cannot live alone.

There were a couple of aspects of the film that didn’t quite ring true for me, but nothing that disrupted the narrative. The dialogue is quite sparse, only the ‘father’ has a chunk of dialogue, and by the time he arrives, I felt settled into Del and Grace’s routine and wanted him to go away. In fact, at the beginning, I did feel like Del when he and Grace went ‘shopping’ in the supermarket, and she asked him what he missed the most, and he replied ‘Quiet.’ He had become so used to his isolation that he was reclusive – and I could relate to that.

Is there an underlying meaning in I Think We’re Alone Now? I think so. It isn’t an action film, there isn’t much dialogue – it’s contemplative. And not only are we being asked to contemplate isolation; initially, but the sharing of our lives with others; even another who is not necessarily, or initially compatible. Grace and Del are dealing with loss in very different ways; he through routine and solitude, she through having her memory wiped. There is a wide gap in their ages, but a little romance does blossom, which is also the reality that bites when Del decides to save her.

The ending, I feel, is almost portrayed like an invitation to join ‘the fold’. You could; like so many people do, choose the easy option and live a life of ‘apparent’ bliss, have a house, a car, a job, hobbies, friendly neighbours, sunshine and lollipops. The film’s ending is the most brightly lit section – throughout it has been blue-tinted greys and dark shadows. Now, as they leave what I presume is meant to be California, we get clear blue skies, palm trees, colourful bicycles and clothing; perfect America? All intensified with an eerie score of suggested discordance. It begins to ‘wind up’ in tension as Del slows the car – is he wishing he could join them? Is life too hard to go on back up North? Does he imagine it would be easier to be one of the herd? His thoughts are interrupted by Grace and the single pronouncement of his name, and they’re moving again. The music rises in pitch and blossoms into a beautiful conclusion as they drive off.

You can take the red pill or the blue pill. Live in a David Lynch-like world of white picket fences and lies – or get on with reality. Utopia is what we make it.

Lonely Days For Del

I’m giving I Think We’re Alone Now

4 stars

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Black Javert

David Oyelowo as Inspector Javert

Over the past six weeks the BBC has been showing their latest adaptation of Les Miserables (UK).

It seemed from the start that what a lot of people concerned themselves with was the colour of Inspector Javert’s skin – he was portrayed by David Oyelowo – and whether a black actor should be representing a copper in 19th century France.

Let’s not call anyone racist, as many folk are probably genuinely puzzled by his inclusion into this, perceived, #whiteworld. As a white person myself, I cannot help the world I grew up in – white family, white friends, white neighbourhood. I would guess that over 90% of children in my schools were white, but in my Primary school class there was one girl of Chinese parentage and one boy who was Black British. But overall it was a very white world.

This was not my choice. Children do not choose where they grow up. We are the result of our culture and upbringing. So if the people on social media question David Oyelowo’s casting, then let’s accept it as simply that – questioning.

It’s the naysayers who can make things uncomfortable for the rest of us white folk. “No!” they say, “No way could a black guy become a police officer in that period.”

One of the things Victor Hugo hi-lights in his story, is the way people are born into a class system and, mostly, die in that class they were born to. However, some rise above it. Jean Valjean, a convict, rises at one point to become Mayor of a small town. Inspector Javert was born in a prison to a Fortune-Teller mother, his father is also a prisoner. His beginnings suggest that he may never rise to the top of the class system, but he becomes a law enforcer, and this world has it’s own hierarchy. For one man, change is the force that makes him a better man, for the other it is what breaks him.

Most people will have heard of Alexandre Dumas; author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. A similar thing happened when his books were made into films and TV shows – at least in the UK – white actors all. And yet, Dumas was himself a Person of Colour. Are we to believe that he only wrote white characters?

Alexandre Dumas

And what about that claim that black people could not rise to prominence?

Dumas’ own father, became a military General and served with distinction. In 1879, Severiano de Heredia became president of the municipal council of Paris – he was bi-racial. Blaise Diagne was a SenegaleseFrench political leader and the Mayor of Dakar. He was the first black African to hold a position in French government in early 20th century (in 1899 he also became a Freemason!) There are other examples.

In the UK, Norwell Roberts was the first black officer in the Metropolitan Police force – 1967. However, recent research has revealed that actually, one of our first (recorded) black officers was John Kent, who served from 1837 in Carlisle. The point is this –

Yes, a black person could have become a police officer in 19th century France!

We must also remember that this production – Les Miserables by the BBC, is entertainment. And the actors are just that, actors. They aren’t really those things they portray, so some level of flexibility of mind is not a great ask. For my part, I thought Oyelowo portrayed Javert wonderfully. Rigid with indignation, self-satisfaction, obsession and possibly shame, he cannot, he realises, continue after experiencing the self-sacrifice of Jean Valjean. That final moment we see as he determines to commit suicide, the agony of his inability to commit himself to the act – then the clarity of understanding that his life has been wasted – he could have been a better man – and finally truth descends, no more tears, he is ready to die.

Also, in the spirit of Victor Hugo and his representations of the struggles of humanity – might we not come to be less poor of mind and spirit ourselves; as well as physicality and station in life, if we could just be more accepting and open-minded about each other – regardless of skin colour? If we do not open ourselves up to possibilities and change, if we retain and do not question what we learnt in our childhoods, then might we all just be Javerts?

*Three images of David Oyelowo from BBC iPlayer – https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer