Alone, is a rare survival thriller that rises above the well-deserved hype and allows it’s cast to shine in a minimalist film that packs one hell of a punch.
Jessica (Jules Wilcox) drives on a long, lonely stretch of road in the Pacific Northwest. Attempting to rebound from a tragic loss, she’s packed up her belongings and is headed back to her hometown to restart her life. Also on this stretch of road is a Man (Marc Menchaca) who, at first. Seems harmless enough, but keeps showing up in the same places as Jessica.
It’s no coincidence. The Man has hostile plans for her, and once in his clutches, she has to fight her way out to safety somewhere in the wilderness. Away from civilization, away from any help and away from the devious psychotic out to destroy her. And she’ll have to face it all alone.
Alone wisely picks and chooses its narrative by not staying with one idea. Instead of just being a thriller set out on the road, that portion becomes the first act. We see Jessica become (rightfully) more paranoid the more this stranger keeps turning up where she does. From that first happenstance on a winding one-lane road that will have any drivers nerves alert in what is their fear when trying to overtake someone. We then venture in the second act to Jessica trying to escape her captor in his cabin.
This is where the film allows the audience to see what type of characters we have. Before it was a stereotypical grieving character trying to escape their past to start anew. Instead, we see Jessica in a different light, this horror has awoken something in her, a need to survive, so she can live that life that she wanted to get away from.
Alone also spares no expense with how hard-hitting it is. Be it a fight in a jeep that will undoubtedly make you wince after each blow. This is an unrelenting film and you do feel every impact, no matter who is being attacked, though a cheer may happen when we see Jessica fight back. The last fantastic act of Alone takes place in the forests of Oregon and the tension is racked up more than you would think possible for such a low scale production.
Also, thanks to the lushes Oregon backdrop filmed by Federico Verardi we and Jessica are surrounded in. The closed-in nature of the roads and forests make us feel as if there is no escape and that feeling never leaves you throughout Alone. The scaled-back nature of the direction also enhances the film as well as its minimalist score. This is a film that pulls back on almost everything that you would expect it to go too big on. On occasions, you would expect the score to rise far more than it does, but it comes and goes when it is required. The same is said for the shot choices. We do not need to see everything that happens.
Director John Hyams shows his confidence in his cast and the script that he doesn’t force the camera on us and lets our imaginations take us on the journey for what we miss. It is a considered approach that works so well.
As good as the story is, without our two leads, Alone would not be the film it ends up being, especially considering that this is essentially a two-person film. Jules Wilcox is sensational here as she does everything in her ability to escape the hell she is in. Her sense of loss and hopelessness in the opening scene where she cannot even figure out or have the impetuous to find a space for her indoor plant in her small U-Haul trailer is haunting.
We know she has had a great loss that she is trying to escape what has happened to her. Going off into the unknown. Compare that to the strength and fight she has in the final scenes and you would think it is a different person. The arc she has and the ability of Wilcox to take the character of Jessica and run with it the way she does is just superb.
Equally, Marc Menchaca is tremendous as our villain pf the piece. There is no mystery here regarding him as from the first frame we are under no allusion as to his creepy nature. Yet he is a layered character. While he emotionlessly kills people who get in his way between him and Jessica, he is a family man. His kitchen scene talking to his family on the phone could be placed into any drama of a father working away from his family with them missing each other. The only thing that removes us from this almost wholesome scene is the fact an exhausted. Yet determined Jessica is hiding in a cupboard waiting for him to leave the room. It is a great show of range from Menchaca that hopefully does not go unnoticed by wider audiences.
An utter surprise of a film for how it can hold its nerve right until the end. Alone is an edge of your seat joy and one of the best thrillers of 2020. Fantastic and effective.
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