The end of the world has rarely looked as lovely as it does in Reed Morano’s I Think We’re Alone Now, an elegant fugue state of a film starring Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning as yin and yang companions in post-apocalyptic nowheresville. Morano, who serves as both director and cinematographer on the film, is a master of mood-setting, and Mike Makowsky’s droll doomsday script lays the foundations for a seductive aesthetic — all haze and grain and draining hues.
“…Fanning and Dinklage deliver on the wry humor and subtle tenderness…”
When the story begins, Del (a stoic Dinklage) thinks he’s alone. Before the majority of the population suddenly dropped dead — the cause of the catastrophe remains unknown — Del worked as the tiny town’s diligent librarian. His new, solitary life finds him similarly scrupulous. Days are passed tidying and scrubbing the homes of his newly decaying neighbors before using a bulldozer to bury the corpses in a vast improvised graveyard. Because of his cleaning work, there’s little of the decrepitude you find in other apocalypse dramas. Instead, slow pans and zoom-ins reveal the town’s deserted streets and foggy lake through a filter of serenity, with the eye of an aesthete amenable to a life of isolation.
Enter Grace (familiarly vibrant Fanning), a teenage cool girl who crashes her car while passing through Del’s domain. As mercurial as Del is mute, Grace is the Clementine to Del’s Joel Barish — a lively, lonely pal who craves Del’s attention while drawing him out of a lifeless shell. There’s a genuine chemistry that develops between the two, and both Fanning and Dinklage deliver on the wry humor and subtle tenderness expected in this brand of onscreen friendship. Clad in a yellow beanie and overalls and ironic tees (one reads “Same S**t, Different Day”), Grace especially stakes out a captivating space as she bikes, skips, and speeds through Morano’s stylized world.
“…both compelling and frustrating in equal measures.”
There’s a jarring twist in the third act, one that’s both compelling and frustrating in equal measures. The trance that Morano has so artfully constructed is pierced and nearly spoiled by a surprise that’s far more plot-heavy than her gorgeous web seems designed to accommodate. But discordance can be exciting too, and it’s a treat to watch Del and Grace plunge into a coarser, more dramatic story space.
Above all, I Think We’re Alone Now is an exercise in ambiance, and Morano is nothing if not a brilliant conductor of tone. Favoring dreamy over dreary, the movie is a handsome and often mesmerizing addition to Morano’s expanding oeuvre.
I Think We’re Alone Now (2018) Directed by Reed Morano. Written by Mike Makowsky. Starring Peter Dinklage, Elle Fanning.