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Invasions and iPhones - ‘Save Yourselves!’

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The desire to disconnect is very real. So much of our lives are lived in the online realm, leaving us tethered to and reliant upon our devices. The current circumstances being what they are, we’ve only become more dependent on all of it, so there’s genuine appeal in breaking loose, if only for a moment.

But what if, in the midst of your big disconnect … the world as you knew it came apart?

That’s the foundational premise of the new movie “Save Yourselves!” The film – written and directed by Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson – is a weird and weirdly prescient story, a low-key look at the apocalypse that also manages to shine a satiric spotlight on tech-obsessed self-involvement at the same time.

It is a strange and funny slow burn, a film that plays with a lot of ideas without ever losing track of the hilariously skewed yet still somehow honest relationship at its center. “Save Yourselves!” is goofy and dark, turning its traditionally bleak speculative subject matter into something driven by quirky hilarity.

Su (Sunita Mani, “The Outside Story”) and Jack (John Reynolds, TV’s “Search Party”) are a hip couple living in Brooklyn. Both have jobs that require them to be tethered to their phones and other devices, but even after work, much of their time is spent idly scrolling on their phones or staring at screens. They’re left wondering what they can do to reconnect with the world around them – and with each other.

An encounter with their globetrotting weirdo friend Raph (Ben Sinclair, TV’s “High Maintenance”) at a party gives them their answer: he offers up the isolated upstate cabin he’s been working on as a place for them to retreat from the hustle and bustle for a while. Su and Jack enthusiastically take him up on the offer, adding to the trip their own personal pledges to leave behind their laptops and keep their phones turned off for the duration of the adventure.

They drive to the cabin, a beautifully appointed place in a stunning natural setting. They immediately prove to be inept and/or oblivious with regard to rustic life; they can’t start a fire or chop wood or properly use a canoe, but they have each other (and plenty of booze).

But when Su sneaks a peek at her phone after a disagreement, things get weird. There’s no WiFi and poor cell service, but she is able to listen to a few fragmented and weirdly cryptic voicemail messages from her mother – messages that imply some worldwide strangeness is afoot. And when the bizarre reality of the outside world finally rears its (implausibly furry and footstool-sized) head, Su and Jack have no choice but to try and figure out the best way to survive … whatever the hell is going on.

“Save Yourselves!” is an alien invasion movie by way of mumblecore, a film that spends much of its run time focusing on the couple at its center, hipster tropes and all. It’s a quirky relationship farce that just happens to maybe have an alien invasion of Earth occurring at its margins. If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, well … it probably isn’t. But if it does, boy oh boy are you in for a treat.

(Note: It is very much my cup of tea.)

Fischer and Wilson make their feature-length debut as writer-directors here, though you’d never guess it with how deftly they handle their business. “Save Yourselves!” is a well-made film, a tight 90 or so minutes that offers a meditation on the value of disconnecting while also offering a sort of FOMO worst-case scenario. It’s hilarious when you think about it – the world won’t end if you don’t check social media for a few days … only what if it does?

It’s inevitable that we’re going to compare the media we consume to our current situation; this movie is no different. Themes of isolation are prevalent here. Hell, aside from a couple of scenes, we’re exclusively spending time with just our two stars – there’s a life in quarantine vibe that is tough to avoid, even if that was hardly the filmmakers’ intent. Not in a bad way, mind you; you just can’t help but make the connection.

“Save Yourselves!” is a film that unspools steadily, moving the narrative forward slowly but relentlessly. That deliberate pacing evokes the quieter rhythms of country living, offsetting the bustle of their own city existences (not to mention the terrifying chaos of the invasion). The juxtaposition of the film’s breeziness with the world-shattering stakes really clicks, giving energy to both larger events and smaller moments.

Speaking of connection – we’ve got one fantastic central pairing here. These sorts of relationship-driven stories rely heavily on the work done by the performers enacting that central connection. Mani and Reynolds are both excellent, perfectly embodying the vaguely clueless woke liberal hipster vibe, a combination of significant self-involvement and a basic lack of self-awareness. They are funny and weird and charmingly dim. The key, however, is that the love that binds them together is readily apparent, even when they’re in conflict. For all intents and purposes, this is a two-hander; luckily, both hands are steady and strong.

“Save Yourselves!” is an undeniably odd movie, a tightly-focused and unconventional exploration of a longtime genre trope by way of relationship dynamics. It is also smart and funny and well-crafted, with good work being done on both sides of the camera. All in all, one of the sweetest films about the end of the world that you’re ever likely to see.

[4 out of 5]

Last modified on Wednesday, 07 October 2020 17:34

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