“Alone Together”Original review was done at the 2022 Tribeca Festival.
Katie Holmes is a great chronicler of the COVID-19 lockdown. This is her second feature as a director. “Alone Together”This article, which she also wrote, captures many details about the subject that are not covered by documentaries.
But Holmes’ artistic ambitions aren’t lofty, as she seems to have set her sights on Lifetime movie rather than Oscar bait.
These opening scenes are breathtaking. June (Holmes) sets out to escape the news alerts flooding her airwaves on March 15, 2020. She is heading to an Airbnb upstate to stay safe from the pandemic. John Luke, her boyfriend, has already booked it. She’s been told by her employer it should all blow over in two weeks. (Ha!)
She wanders along empty streets and then waits on a ghostly platform for the subway to hear an announcement that the next train is just 25 minutes away. All of the departure boards are showing when she finally gets to Grand Central Terminal. “canceled.” It’s overwhelming to be reminded that these scenes from a post-apocalyptic horror flick were our reality.
June takes the Lyft suggestion from the Grand Central kiosk without hesitation, even though her destination is about 100 miles away. This is the first sign of suspension of disbelief. (A character in Andrew Ahn’s “Fire Island”The film acknowledges that the trip would be extremely expensive and that he will need to take a taxi from Bushwick. During the trip, June asks her driver (Neal Benari) how he has managed to procure hand sanitizer because she can’t find it anywhere. The banter is so resonant that we can overlook the first plot hole.
When June arrives at the Airbnb, she can’t find the hidden keys to the place anywhere. John has decided to not be there with his father and June is left to her own devices. After a brief meltdown, she finally sees Charlie (Jim Sturgess), emerge from the house. The place appears to have been booked twice. Charlie refuses to stay elsewhere. He at least has a set. She agrees to share the rental.
The film’s premise reeks of escapist fantasy, as June and Charlie grow closer and develop romantic feelings as a matter of course. Daydreams such as this are common among singles who have been frightened of social isolation and quarantining over the past two decades. Being with a kind and attractive stranger and falling in love is a great scenario for shutting down, however impossible or corny it may sound.
Holmes brings us back to COVID-19, the part that makes the film so special, however. June works through a list of restaurants’ phone numbers, and each one she dials leads to a voice recording about closure. June FaceTiming Ed Dixon, her godfather, is a standout scene. He may not know her identity, even though he raised her. However, they share a warm moment singing. “Blue Moon” together.
But, oh no! There’s still the boyfriend back in the city. Will June end up with Charlie, who encourages her to never forget herself, or John, who suggests that she should abandon the novel she’s writing to work on a cookbook? How will she make a decision? This doesn’t have anything to do with the pandemic anymore; it’s “Dawson’s Creek”All over again. Holmes chose the easiest outcome, which also happens to be the worst for distinguishing the film form fluff.
True to its TV-movie ambitions, the film can get a little ridiculous at times. June arrives at Airbnb with a weekend bag and an entire wardrobe. Holmes has as many costume changes in a day as the late André Leon Talley. One moment June is inconsolable over the devastating news of her godfather’s death and her inability to give him a proper funeral due to the pandemic; in the next, she is all smiles on a bike ride with Charlie.
Charlie makes face masks from a shirt, but June rarely sees him wearing them. Charlie wears his mask only when he visits Deborah (Melissa Leo) and the masks are taken off to talk to each other. True, it is possible to do exactly that in real-life. Charlie and Deborah at least try to keep social distance.
“Alone Together” frequently hints at Holmes’ gifts as a storyteller, so it’s disappointing that she has a proclivity for romance-novel fodder. She could have written the script herself and focused on genuine feelings, rather than following conventional narratives. This would make her a more serious filmmaker. June and Charlie don’t have to have sex. They don’t have to be in love. It could have been about two people from different backgrounds who find common ground and support each other in the face of unimaginable challenges.
The film as it stands is a low-quality vanity project that is best used for TV.
“Alone Together”Friday opening in U.S. theatres and on demand July 29.