dir: Brian Duffield
This flick was an experience.
I went in thinking it was a horror flick. I also went into to it thinking that I wish the filmmakers had the confidence to give this a better title, being There is No-one What Will Take Care of You, the first legendary album by Will Oldham of Palace / Palace Brothers / Bonnie “Prince” Billy fame or infamy.
At least I’m guessing that’s the title they really wanted, but they chickened out. I mean, No One Will Save You is direct, punchy, and accurate, but There is No-One What Will Take Care of You, is plaintive, soulful, lyrical and also passive-aggressive, manipulative, mean-spirited; it could be a lament, it could be a threat. There’s a lot potentially going on there.
This film is a marvel, in that it is quite experimental in some ways, even as it seems extremely conventional in others. There is no dialogue between characters in this film whatsoever. Our protagonist, Brynn (Kaitlyn Dever), only ever gets to say one line of dialogue in the whole film. And yet there’s acres of storytelling going on. We are left with no doubt as to what’s happened in the past, and what’s going on in Brynn’s terrible present.
Even though it’s tempting to call this a science fiction film, I think it’s more of a horror film, since Brynn fights valiantly to save herself from an uncertain but probably horrible fate. And yet the other factor is that I want to joke about the aliens from M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs coming back to Earth and figuring out how to tolerate water (on a planet five sixths of which is water), to finish the job they started over two decades ago.
We get plenty of details that indicate that Brynn leads a solitary existence well before the additional bad things start happening. She is a town pariah, and we don’t know exactly why until much later on. She lives alone in her parental home, but after she pays a visit to the local cemetery to have a picnic, we see her mum died recently, meaning she probably lost her one ally in this world.
Sad face emoji. But when we see her interact with townsfolk in the nearby town, people either don’t look at her, or do look at her, angrily. She talks to no-one, and no-one talks to her. If she tries to say something, something always interrupts her.
Brynn writes letters to someone called Maude, someone we assume she was close with until… some unpleasantness happened. In fact she even writes that she saw Maude’s parents in town.
But we also saw Brynn cowering behind a car, not wanting to be seen by them. And when she later bumps into them unexpectedly, we are left with no doubt as to how they feel about her *splat*
It’s not looking good. I assumed it was a “I hurt my best friend in a car crash when I was driving drunk”, which is common enough in American pop culture as a source of crippling guilt / backstory for a glum character, but Brynn isn’t a glum character. She seems like she’s fairly happy with her life, she just wishes people would forgive her for something terrible she did, so she could reconnect with the world.
She seems to be getting by with an Etsy-like existence which involves selling stuff online to people who are miniature diorama / dollhouse fussy obsessives. I was hoping one of the packages she was sending out was addressed to Wes Anderson himself, who would probably be in real life one of her customers, though her stuff probably isn’t meticulously fussy enough for him.
And then the bad shit starts to happen.
Aliens. It’s aliens. They try to sneak in to her house. We’re not sure why. Do they want to eat Brynn, or just steal her stuff? They don’t initially look that scary, because years of seeing “The Greys” has desensitised us to their presence (probably all a part of their conspiracy to take over one day). But they’re pretty menacing, and they make creepy clicks or bellowing sounds, and light randomly seems to blow doors down or lift things up in the air.
Remember the title. There is no one that will save Brynn. The only person she has to rely on is herself.
Since there’s no dialogue to worry about, that allows everyone involved to focus on the scares and on the set ups, and it really works well pitting Brynn against an alien horde. She is scared, but she’s not defenceless. She is very determined, either to survive, or to eventually apologise to Maude properly, and beg forgiveness.
You might wonder why I mention Brynn’s feelings of grief and guilt in the context of a film where she’s desperately evading a bunch of aliens. The thing is, her feelings are paramount to the story.
The aliens themselves aren’t mindless creature – they’re not like the creatures in the A Quiet Place movies that are blind creatures who tear apart any person they hear. These aliens are at least curious before they mess us up.
There seems to be different types or hierarchies of them, and they seem to be genuinely curious about Brynn, and what makes her tick. So maybe they see people as insects, or livestock, or some lower form of semi-intelligent life, but at least they’re curious enough about Brynn to want to see what it is that motivates her.
To what end? I am unsure. Maybe they’re studying humans, maybe these forays to our planet aren’t for the purposes of conquest: Maybe this is their equivalent of a field study trip, to compile observations, to discover something amazing to maybe get tenure at some intergalactic mid-sized university.
I am in no way implying that the makers here ripped off anything from Stephen King, but I will say that conceptually I saw some similarities here in terms of the aliens and how they view humanity, drawing from elements of the novel of Under the Dome. Just to spoil a completely different property, but not this one, the solution to the mystery of what’s happening to the good people of Chester’s Mill in that novel is simultaneously hilarious and depressing, in that aliens are involved, but they’re the equivalent of bored kids, the types that would burn ants with a magnifying glass. The solution to the story involves appealing to the alien’s capacity for empathy, to convince them that the people under the dome deserve more than indifferent torment.
I hesitate to say it, but there’s something, eventually, similar going on here. The aliens seem very curious as to what’s going on in Brynn’s heart and mind. The problem is how brutally they try to access that information, since there is no language held in common.
Kaitlyn Dever does a phenomenal job with this role. It’s all facial expressions and heavy breathing, or looks of longing at objects or people about what she did wrong, and the desperate hope of making things right. And the context of a science fiction scenario allows the story to give her strange ways to fight for herself, and grieve, and forgive herself, and kill lots of aliens, and somehow come to terms with things, wrapped up in a scenario that looks appalling for the rest of humanity, but which gives Brynn a comically ironic “happy” ending.
I mean, she’s finally happy, but it looks like the rest of us are fucked.
In this world, well, you pretty much can’t rely on anyone. There’s no cavalry coming, there’s no last minute save, there’s no discovery that water will make all the aliens go away. All you can do is forgive yourself for some horrible shit you did in the past, and get busy killing aliens, and get the job done yourself.
Because, after all, There is No-One What Will Look After You better than you can yourself.
8 times this flick is a marvel, I’ll say it again, out of 10
“I’m sorry, Maude, I’m sorry.” – the only line of dialogue in the whole film - No One Will Save You