One of Sundance’s may strengths lies in encouraging indie filmmakers to make genre films, and that’s certainly the case with
I Think We’re Alone Now (U.S. Dramatic Category). This marks the second film for scribe Mike Markowsky and its plot revolves around Del (Peter Dinklage) who we meet as a man who has survived an unexplained worldwide epidemic and now lives in an isolated state at the library he worked at while keeping his small town clean.
The set-up alone has a great Twilight Zone feel and is reminiscent of the episode “Time Enough At Last” where a bookworm survives nuclear war while reading on his lunch break in a bank vault and now that all the pesky people in his life have been erased, he’s excited to finally have the time to read all his favorite books at the library. But back to Del, it turns out living without people suits him and he’s content with his new life until another survivor, Grace (Elle Fanning) drops in and adds chaos to Del’s orderly universe.
It’s no surprise Makowsky’s script attracted top talent like Dinklage and Fanning because he crafted a simplistic and classical setup for a character-driven genre film – which is no easy feat. As for the characters themselves, both were traumatized by the mass-epidemic that killed off their families and it takes a while for Del in his isolated state to warm up to Grace.
As the characters do finally open up to each other, Markowsky feeds us only morsels of exposition, but never too much to bore us. After all, these survivors are just regular civilians and have no idea whatsoever what killed off the rest of the planet and furthermore why they managed to live through it unscathed – so what could they possibly say? Therefore, instead of dwelling on those mysteries Makowsky choses to focus on the future. Both characters suffered through the epidemic, but now it’s time for them to decide what they want their new lives to look like. This becomes the fuel in each character’s tank as they drive sometimes recklessly toward discovering those answers – but it’s all the audience needs to stay engaged.
It’s clear Dinklage and Fanning loved the script and their smart performances honor it. Director Reed Morano (The Handmaid’s Tale) was the perfect choice for the project and keeps everything sharply focused. It should also be noted that Morano is her own cinematographer and the visuals for the film were gorgeous. In a world where there’s no more electricity and batteries are the only way toward being able to see at night, Morano made fantastic use of natural light blasting through the windows and drapes by day and then some of the lowest light settings imaginable on modern cameras at night to catch glimpses of her characters inhabiting their darkened world.
The icing on the cake for I Think We’re Alone Now is the fact the filmmakers were awarded a Dolby Grant and therefore able to engineer the film to be played in a Dolby Atmos theater (which the Park City Eccles happens to be). The sound design is superb – at times it’s creepy and sometimes it’s haunting as our heroes enter unoccupied houses and traverse the empty streets. Tying it all together is the score by Adam Taylor – a moody instrumental set that mirrors each scenes emotions as they’re played out.
I Think We’re Alone Now truly became the sum of its well polished parts to deliver an emotionally resonant character piece set in a post-apocalyptic future with a glimmer of hope. Don’t miss it when it comes into a theater near you.
But hey, if you’re not at Sundance and still want a great independent film experience – you can watch Makowsky’s writing feature debut, Take Me, on Netflix right now! And after you’ve seen the film you can tune into The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith podcast to hear an interview with Makowsky and director/star Pat Healy about how the film was made.
Looking for interviews with today’s top filmmakers and storytellers? We hope you’ll check out our in-depth pieces for Backstory Magazine! You can see Issue 30’s Table of Contents – or we hope you will consider – Subscribing!
READ MORE FROM THE 2018 SUNDANCE GUIDE:
Del (Peter Dinklage) is alone in the world. Literally. After the human race is wiped out, he lives in a small, empty town, methodically going from house to house, collecting batteries and other useful items, and burying the dead. He dines alone, reads, watches movies, and shelves books in the local library he’s made his home. He’s content in his solitude—until he discovers Grace (Elle Fanning), an interloper on his quiet earth. Her history and motives are obscure, and worse yet, she wants to stay.
From the outset, I Think We’re Alone Now departs from mainstream post-apocalyptic conventions, declining to elaborate on how the world ended. It doesn’t matter. Director Reed Morano is more intrigued by who’s left—the psychologies of these unmoored characters, the idea of a recluse thrust into companionship. What does the end of the world mean to a guy who had nobody in his life? Impeccably crafted, full of humor and beautifully observed moments, and with a tinge of social satire, Morano’s understated sci-fi vision is a poignant contemplation of loneliness and human connection.
Reed Morano was director and executive producer for the first three episodes of the acclaimed Hulu show The Handmaid’s Tale, which won her the 2017 Emmy for outstanding directing for a drama series. The show received 12 Emmy nominations and 8 wins overall, including outstanding drama series. Morano is currently at work directing The Rhythm Section, starring Blake Lively and Jude Law and produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson for Paramount Pictures.
Cast & Credits
Director: Reed Morano
Screenwriter: Mike Makowsky
Producers: Fred Berger / Brian Kavanaugh-Jones / Fernando Loureiro / Roberto Vasconcellos / Peter Dinklage / Mike Makowsky
Executive Producers: David Ginsberg / Felipe Prado / João Prado
Co-Producer: Ged Dickersin
Director of Photography: Reed Morano
Production Designer: Kelly McGehee
Editor: Madeleine Gavin
Costume Designer: Mirren Gordon-Crozier
Music: Adam Taylor
First Assistant Director: Matt McLoota
Music Supervisor: Randall Poster
Principal Cast: Peter Dinklage / Elle Fanning