Photo: Courtesy of Sundance
This review originally ran during the Sundance Film Festival.
The post-apocalyptic drama I Think We’re Alone Now (which had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival) features Peter Dinklage as the last man on Earth until Elle Fanning shows up. Dinklage’s Del is a night librarian who insists that he felt lonelier — probably owing to his stature, although that isn’t spelled out — with his town’s 1,600 people around him than he does with everyone reduced to dessicated husks by an unspecified plague. Del has a routine: He enters the houses of the dead, retrieves any outstanding library books, takes the working batteries, and drags the bodies he finds (wrapped in their own blankets) to a large pit. He later says he’s trying to introduce order into a chaotic universe. That’s why he’s surly to the emotionally unstable Grace (Fanning), whom he rescues from a car that she drove into a tree. (There’s a gun in the back seat — a mystery.) If he allows himself feelings, how can he keep them from consuming him?
Directed by Reed Morano from a script by Mike Makowsky, I Think We’re Alone Now poses the question, “How can we cope with devastating grief without losing our humanity?” The answer, not surprisingly, centers on acknowledging our messy emotions rather than repressing them or allowing the Powers That Be (whoever they May Be) to wipe out our pasts. I couldn’t agree more. But after its intriguing start, the movie gets dumb and dumberer. “Third-act problems,” concluded many in the Sundance audience. But the first two acts have issues, too.
Although I’m thrilled, along with the rest of the world, by Dinklage’s ascent to stardom via Game of Thrones, I’m less happy with the black cloud that envelops him in other roles. (He’s fine in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but the part calls for him to be constantly humiliated.) His reluctance to let Grace into his heart when for all he knows she’s the only woman left on Earth is the movie’s first ding-a-ling conceit. Either he finally softens or he doesn’t, and if he doesn’t there’s really no movie, is there? We just have to sit and watch him grump while Fanning’s Grace compensates by babbling and invading his space. She’s a good actress but this is like a badly written Greta Gerwig part — only mildly less tolerable than a well-written Greta Gerwig part. Even the requisite surefire post-apocalyptic supermarket scene (anything that isn’t expired they can snatch) isn’t fun.
Dogs, birds, and fish seem okay—but are there other humans left alive? I’m not supposed to say. The climax is moderately suspenseful but also bewilderingly bad, like something that might have come up in a Black Mirror story meeting before being instantly dismissed with groans. Dinklage deserves all the good will we can muster, but if he’s going to make movies like this, the last season of Game of Thrones can’t come soon enough.