Originally a play called Lone-Anon, written by Neil McGowan, now comes Eryc Tramonn’s feature film Loners. In a time of dystopian government overreach those in command have concluded that mass shootings and other random violence, most often perpetrated by a lone gunman, would be resolved if said gunman had only had friends, whether he wants them or not. Scary outsiders need to become peaceful, productive, participating citizens. The real impulse, of course, is to make sure people are around to keep an eye on each other, so they can rat out those unmutual bastards.
Anyone identified as less social than governmentally deemed healthy are categorized as “loners” and forced to wear a shock-collar style headband with a scarlet “L” on their forehead. Failure to engage with other people for a prescribed period of time each week results in correction by way of the headband. Persistently defying the socializing rules will result in being “disappeared.” A particularly misanthropic group of outcasts concludes that they can at least be somewhat alone together, and organizes a weekly poker game meeting that is in fact simply them being in close proximity. Extra points are giving for touching, so they set aside time during the sessions during which they grit their teeth and touch.
As part of their rehab they are also compelled to meet with a handler named Mike (Keith Stevenson) who is meant to be a social coach for them in a government-mandated group therapy class called “Lone-Anon” as part of the “War on Loneliness.” All of their interactions are observed remotely by government officials in a secret government conspiracy.
Meanwhile in another shadowy corner, a clandestine agent (the always reliably humorous Stephen Tobolowsky) is working for an organization bent on revolution to protect the anti-social, led by the scion of a famous recluse.
“Failure to engage with other people for a prescribed period of time results in correction by way of the headband…“
The best of the film deals with the interactions of the group of misfits. Their personalities clash and they grump each other into mutual survival, wearing the red badge of “loser”, but eventually coming together around a shared belief in their individual right to be alone. The dark comedy is subtle, but hilarious. Serious topics bubble up from masterful situational humor. Characters range from an apparent psycho to a jock who works in a shoe store where employees wearing an iconic referee shirt.
In the group dynamic there’s a nostalgic Breakfast Club / Community vibe, with added sarcastic commentary on the tyranny of extroverts, and the wrong-headed notion that those who prefer other people in low doses are somehow dangerous. In one way, to be clear, this assertion is correct: introverts are harder to monitor and control, tending to be stubbornly iconoclastic and non-conformist by definition.
From the film’s website “We are proud to share a comedic takes on our current political climate and the government’s inability to actually address the violence in our news.” The cast of the original play were included in the film. Produced on a micro-budget, Loners sparkles with a quality screenplay and polished filmmaking. This talented crew of filmmakers and actors have crafted a fine piece of commentary comedy, well worth your time.
Loners (2019) Directed by Eryc Tramonn. Written by Neil McGowan. Starring Khary Payton, Stephen Tobolowsky, Brian Letscher, Melissa Paladino, Tyson Turrou, David Christian Welborn, Brenda Davidson, Michael Monks, Madeleine Woolner, Neil McGowan, Keith Stevenson, Will Greenberg, Rob Kerkovich.
8 out of 10