Alone Together lacks the chemistry to craft a compelling story
When scaling a movie like alone together, yet another COVID lockdown story where two characters get stuck with each other, it’s hard not to compare it to other instances where this story has been done much better. The Spirit Award-winning film 7 days, for example, managed to capture its complicated characters even within the confines of its setting. He was ready to fight against their faults and their fears, revealing who they were under the image they gave each other. Initially, it looked like this film might lay the groundwork for a similar experience. It starts with us Katie Holmes, who also wrote and directed the film, as June. She’s an aspiring food critic and author who hopes to spend some time at an Airbnb in upstate New York that has been booked by her boyfriend John (Derek Luke). She is devastated when she arrives to find that the house is already occupied. The initially conflicting Charlie (Jim Sturges) says it is indeed her rental and that she must be wrong. Not knowing what to do with the world in crisis, they both decide to stay there.
It’s a classic storytelling trope where a misunderstanding brings together two people who would otherwise be strangers. As they both try to make the best of their situation and reflect on their own lives, they end up forming an unexpected bond. Trust me when I say you’ve seen this movie countless times before. The initial hook of it being established during the early days of public awareness of COVID is incidental to the experience. It’s just a backdrop, a way to set everything in motion and get these people to start opening up to each other. The only problem is that it lacks the necessary chemistry to draw you into the story.
Although Holmes and Sturgess give their all, it just feels like these people aren’t all developed beyond the basics. That’s not to say the story doesn’t try to tell us they are, it never shows us convincingly. Their connection happens pretty quickly, requiring only a quick bottle of wine and a few drunken confessions. They share platitudes back and forth, even though they never feel like they’re truly baring their souls. They both just run through a checklist to share their interests, but no real wrinkles or texture. Part of being alive is the little flaws and nuances that we usually keep to ourselves, but gradually reveal to others. There are brief hints of greater depth though they eventually pass as quickly as they come, leaving us stranded with nothing to hold on to.
There’s the recurring element where June suspects that John no longer loves her and may even be cheating on her. After all, it was certainly odd that he booked that house and actually stuck her there. He explained it by saying he needed to check on his family, although June wasn’t so sure. While it might give deeper thematic meaning to his need to sort through all that baggage, it’s never really explored that much. Instead, we get scenes with the two doing masks together as some kind of cute bonding experience which then leads to the repeated buzz of real speeches from disgraced former Governor Andrew Cuomo.
While the uncertainty and chaos of those early days is fair game to portray in a movie, it feels like the story doesn’t have much to say about it. looking again 7 dayswhile it was flawed in tackling the heavier themes, it at least felt like there was something underpinning it all. alone together just feels empty and vapid, devoid of any greater sense of emotional connection between the two. A karaoke montage scene is so forced and too sentimental without deserving it that it almost completely loses you. It all just becomes a confusing sequence of events without a compelling line to hold it together until you finally realize it’s going nowhere. Without the commitment of Holmes and Sturgess, everything would fall apart.
Yet this ends up giving them next to nothing to work with and wasting their talents with no real sense of the stakes. Other misunderstandings arise to keep things in place, even if it all meanders and lacks energy. You never think these people have real chemistry. While a movie like this wasn’t going to be the most complicated, it all seems too perfect until it throws another shallow curve to get us across the finish line. It all goes through the motions of what the story could be without any deeper feelings of emotion. Even an unexpected loss is without more closure or tact, making it feel like the story wanted to put her in there just to capture something more serious.
The problem is that it looks like it doesn’t impact the story any more where you could only cut a few minutes, and you’d have no idea it even happened. We always keep going back and forth with two people who are the most superficial versions of themselves, stock characters who are just playing out a fantasy with nothing more to offer. As long as he sings a cute song, he hopes you won’t be more aware of his growing hollow. It starts to get incredibly tiring as it drags on.
What makes these types of stories work is that the characters have deeper flaws and bond through that. Hell, even just some sort of detail in their lives would have gone a long way. Confined stories can only be done well if the writing feels more ambitious and expansive in exploring the characters that inhabit the story. It just feels like he’s about to get somewhere until he slips into another montage, unsure of the darker elements of the story and wanting to keep things light. Even in comedies, it takes greater maturity and complexity to convince you of the film’s story.
It is painfully rare in alone togetherturning characters meant to make a connection into the most superficial creations possible. Movies like this should strive to rigorously engage with the characters and everything they represent rather than just scratch the surface. When they don’t, you get an experience like this that takes the least amount of effort and tries to cash in on the likeability of its cast. When that sympathy begins to wear thin through repetition, you hunger for a truly genuine connection between the two. It’s a shame that never comes.