The premise: It’s the end of the world. Haven’t we seen that before? We have, most recently in A Quiet Place. But in I Think We’re Alone Now, there are only two people left on the entire planet. And they’re played by Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning. So that’s promising. And the filmmaker is Reed Morano, a superb cinematographer turned Emmy-winning director of A Handmaid’s Tale. You’re hooked, right?
Well, don’t get too excited. All that talent is hamstrung by a script from Mike Makowsky that does not go boldly where no screenwriter has gone before. In fact, Makowsky simply connects the dots while the actors do the heavy lifting.
Thankfully, they’re more than up to the task. Dinklage can make something compelling out of not doing a goddamn thing. The Game of Thrones star plays Del, a bearded grump who navigates around the corpses littering New York’s Hudson Valley, trying to bring order out of apocalyptic chaos. When he’s not collecting batteries or watching movies on abandoned DVD players, Del goes door to door, burying the decaying bodies he finds. Del makes his home base the local library, where he returns books to their shelves for reasons best known to himself. At night, he sits and reads, sips wine and seems content with his own company. For Del, the end of the world might be just what the doctor ordered.
Enter Fanning as Grace, a chatty teen who crashes her car into Del’s world and starts asking all kinds of questions. Who can blame her? Del squints with annoyance until he opens up, little by little, as Grace starts to grow on him. But what’s that funny scar on the back of her neck? Is she hiding more than she’s telling? Morano does her best work with the first part of the movie, when Del and Grace size each other up and try to make sense of what to do next. Fanning brings a charming awkwardness to Grace that contrasts sharply with the way Dinklage slowly reveals the secrets and hurt feelings Del has kept hidden since way before global annihilation struck.
It’s then that the script lays on complications meant to shock us, but which instead play like clichés from the ancient Twilight Zone handbook. Worse, the emotional investment we make in Del and Grace comes to nothing, as the plot ties up loose ends without a single surprise or a scintilla of genuine emotion. Tiffany’s cover version on the title song (not heard in the movie) made you feel the lyric: “The beating of our hearts is the only sound.” But even Dinklage and Fanning can’t give this failed experiment a heartbeat. You won’t wish for the end of world while watching <em>I Think We’re Alone Now</em>, just the end of the movie.