Five kids wake up in a world where everybody has disappeared.
David Moreau (adaptation/dialogue/screenplay)
Bruno Gazzotti (comics)
Guillaume Moulin (adaptation)
Fabien Vehlmann (comics)
Jean-Stan Du Pac
Based on the comic books by Bruno Gazzotti (illustrator) and Fabien Vehlmann (writer) which have been around since 2006 – Alone is brimming with fun and fantastical mystery. The comic book arc is still in play – with a total of 20 volumes planned.
Five teenagers wake up in their city – to find no one else around. They bond with one another, take up residence in an upscale hotel, drive around in fancy cars and work to discover what has happened to everyone else in their city. On the outskirts of town, a massive cloud of debris and dust (which will burn you) keeps them from exiting the city. There is also a strange man stalking them through the deserted city centers and barren streets – someone they christen the “Master of Knives”. As this mysterious figure appears more often, the kids may have to venture into the burning cloud to save themselves and discover exactly what is happening.
I found it interesting. When discussing the film with friends following the screening, the reaction was the same from many of us. There’s something about the fact that this is based on a comic book – and is basically an origin story – which lends extra intrigue and extra credibility to an already good film. The idea that this is the beginning of a longer tale seems to imbue the film’s story with extra promise.
It’s a very talented cast of young actors – headed by our intro into this world, Leila (Sofia Lesaffre). It’s a strong lead performance, as Leila becomes the clear leader of our disparate little group of confused kids. She’s as perplexed as everyone else, but her smarts and compassion for the younger kids is quite endearing. Lesaffre commands the screen as the “big kid” and it’s easy to follow along with Leila’s journey – thanks to her great work.
But it is Kim Lockhart (as younger girl Camille) who steals your heart. She’s quiet and meek – frightened by what is happening. And her constant requests to go back home (“my mother’s probably worried about me”) will break your heart. And her connection to Leila in a big sister/little sister relationship is quite touching. When Camille does finally get home, only to discover that her mother too, has vanished – it’s a powerful acting moment for Lockhart, as well as a powerful scene for Lesaffre and Lockhart together.
While everything succeeds in the more action-packed and intense sequences, I found the most joy when these kids are able to just be kids. They hole up in a high-end hotel in the city’s center – and enjoy all of the lavish amenities the place has to offer. Leila is established in the film’s opening sequence, to be (even as a teenager) a car fanatic and a mini-car racer. So when they have access to Yvan’s (Paul Scarfoglio) father’s stunning rare car collection – they get the chance to drive a red Mustang (for starters!), uninhibited through the city at top speeds. Add into that the freedom to eat, drink and jump up and down on the cushy hotel beds – and the film becomes an exciting look into the fun lives of unattended children.
Every kid’s dream, right?
But the film never forgets that these kids are confused, frightened and obviously dependent on their missing families. So these moments offer a break from the uncertainty and fear with which these kids are coping – and through that, in what is a heightened-reality sort of universe, we get real humanity.
There’s a great sense of humor inherent in the film – stemming from the characters themselves. It’s all lovely and organic. The best moment of perfectly timed and executed humor comes about when the kids spend their first night in the hotel. They all have their own rooms to enjoy. But Camille gets creeped out, and sheepishly goes to the group’s de facto leader (Leila), asking if she can stay with her. Leila smiles and opens her door – revealing the rest of the group already settling in to Leila’s room.
The film smartly points out our pop culture, post apocalyptic-obsessed world – by borrowing heavily from the images of wind-swept and deserted city streets (straight out of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later) and even goes so far as to mention The Walking Dead by name – the kids question one another if that could be what is happening.
As with everything in this day and age, there’s a twist. The clues are pretty clear, but you won’t be hemming and hawing over what will be the film’s reveal, because you’re quite engaged with the characters and their mysterious situation. But the final revelation – as the kids enter that dark, burning cloud – promises a far longer journey for these characters ahead.
The visual effects in Alone are top-notch. They’re seamless, creepy and menacing. As is to be expected, much of the film – and the way it’s shot – calls out the story’s comic book origins. And however the filmmakers made it happen – you’ll simply marvel at the visions of empty city streets. It’s notable that while a film like 28 Days Later (mentioned above) shows an empty London city-scape – it doesn’t do it for the entire film. Alone completely takes place in this city center – and you’ll wonder how it was pulled off. Closed city streets, or folks removed digitally from a bustling city scene? Or both? However carried out – it’s impressive. And the visuals of the encroaching burning cloud (most prominent in the cool church sequence) are convincing and terrifying.
Alone is beautifully shot, with strong performances from a young cast in what amounts to an intriguing origin story. And with this being only the beginning, you’ll certainly be left wanting more.
Stay tuned for additional information on a wider release of the film. At press, no actual dates have been announced.