2020 | R | starring Sunita Mani and John Reynolds | written & directed by Alex Huston Fischer & Eleanor Wilson | 1 hr 33 mins |
In the delightful, indie sci-fi comedy, Save Yourselves!, a young couple disconnect from technology and retreat to a cabin in the woods where they learn they can’t actually do anything for themselves. It’s a 2-hander set almost entirely around stars Sunita Mani and John Reynolds, their chemistry as a couple and a low-fi, budgetarily efficient alien invasion that never feels quite dangerous, but just enough to test these two’s medal as a couple.
Tired of being distracted by their phones and social media accounts, Su (Mani) and Jack (Reynolds) decide to disconnect from it all and go on a technology detox at a friend’s upstate New York cabin. While trying to rough it while exploring their relationship they are oblivious to an alien invasion of adorable “poof” balls that attack the Earth until the Poofs are at their door and forcing them to fight back or flee.
Save Yourselves! is the best kind of genre movie in that if you pulled the genre bits out of it, it would still work exceeding well as a romantic comedy. The World’s End without aliens still works as an arrested development movie, Hereditary without a curse still works as a fractured family drama, Rosemary’s Baby without the devil cult still works as a social class satire and pregnancy anxiety story. While not on that caliber, Save gets so much about the fundamental story construction and theme-weaving right that it feels like the work of budding filmmaking talent. Like those movies, it isn’t one where you bid your time waiting around for the sci-fi elements because the character work is just as fun. It’s more than just expositional table-setting, watching Su and Jack navigate around both each other without tech distractions and nature itself – Su attempting to come closer with note booked internet listicles and Jack attempting to build a fire – is entertaining in it’s own right. This is the kind of movie that people will probably go back to in a few years when writer/directors Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson get handed a big studio comic book movie.
Amid this low-tech, high-theme film is a lovingly subversive look at millennials at large from the inside out. I’m guessing Fischer and Wilson’s ages here, but either way the film doesn’t feel like it comes from a perspective that looks down on characters with snarky condescension. An entirely shallow version of this movie would hit the “millennials are addicted to technology” bong over and over, but Save uses that as a starting point and plunges deeper into a broader satire of those unable to help themselves. To have Jack (who eventually reaches a point of almost frustrating uselessness) openly voice, in an honest monologue, that he always resisted Man Things until he no longer knew how to do any of those things is insightful. When faced with living off the land, Su admits they never learned how to learn things and when faced with using a gun against the aliens they can only rattle off gun stats and fumble the attempt. Fischer and Wilson are less concerned with genre trappings here then they are using that to put the couple through a series of trials to prepare them for adulthood. It’s all handled with a deft touch.
Fischer and Wilson know where they are going too. Just as the movie feels like it starts to ramble, they pull it together for a satisfying, unique climax. It’s a small movie, but it never feels claustrophobic. There’s a nice cinematic score too. Yes, there are aliens in this movie and they are adorable. It’s a first film perfectly modulated in scope that doesn’t reach beyond it’s grasp. A little end-of-the-world, a little millennial satire and a little domestic comedy (night terrors are a free laugh from me). Fischer and Wilson easily put together a satisfying mix with Save Yourselves! Well worth a watch.