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FILM REVIEW: Alone (Seuls)

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FILM: Alone (Seuls)

DIRECTOR: David Moreau

YEAR: 2017

SYNOPSIS: Sixteen-year-old Leila wakes up in an empty city. Where are her parents? Where has everyone gone? Thinking she must be the sole survivor of a mysterious catastrophe, Leila wanders the strangely deserted streets of Fortville and eventually meets four other teenagers. Together they join forces and attempt to survive in a desolate and increasingly hostile world. But are they really alone?


Review by Mickey Chua.

I was recently quizzed about the place of French cinema in today’s Singaporean landscape – the general impression local audiences have towards French movies, as well as the reach and significance of these films. While the unquestionable domination of large-scale, studio-made Hollywood movies stands, a growing appetite for foreign fare and alternative modes of storytelling has certainly become increasingly prevalent.

Alone is both of these things. The French equivalent of a Young Adult blockbuster, Alone draws comparisons to its similar dystopian themed American counterparts à la the Maze Runner and Hunger Games films. In Alone, a hardened, rough speaking teenager, Leila (Sofia Lesaffre), wakes from a night out at the amusement park to find her entire city wiped of its populace and engulfed by a mysterious lethal fog. Making her way through the now eerily deserted streets of her French metropolis, Leila meets four atypical teenagers, the thuggish Dodji (Stephane Bak), fidgety Terry (Jean-Stan du Pac), geeky Camille (Kim Lockhart) and wealthy company heir Yvan (Paul Scarfoglio). The five quickly form an unlikely friendship as they attempt to navigate their new, unfamiliar world and uncover the mystery behind the disappearance of the town’s inhabitants.

Based on the French-Belgium comic book series written by Fabien Vehlmann and designed by Bruno Gazzotti, the director David Moreau transports us into a familiar French setting, yet construes this reality with a bold twist of fantastical elements. The characters are often placed in high-octane action sequences; battling menacing knife wielding assassins and ominous looking drones, all whilst racing against time and the looming fog threatening to envelope the hemisphere for good. Much of the film’s look comprises of muted blue and grey tones, with an exhilarating combination of both cityscape and underground shots, giving us a palpable sense of the danger and inner turmoil faced by the characters.

This is not to say the film isn’t without its light moments. It is abundant with fun scenes – including one where the gang run amok in a plush hotel – reflecting the camaraderie and follies of youth, as well as the initial thrill that comes with liberation. We identify with these characters despite speaking different languages because our experiences and feelings are universal. We share common fears, of overcoming our demons and seeking acceptance from our loved ones.

The themes of teen alienation and loneliness have been recurrently explored in numerous art forms, but perhaps seldom taken quite as literally and innovatively as what the filmmakers have done here. Perhaps the biggest difference between the film and its American variations is its courage to venture into the deeper-rooted philosophical notions commonplace in French movies that Hollywood largely avoids.

Without giving away the ending of the film (there are two!), Alone concerns itself with greater ideas in trying to explain our very state of being and existence, and despite not necessarily always succeeding, provides a fresh spin and perspective on the much recycled genre. Running at a compact 90 minutes, the film delivers on the thrills and chills one goes into a movie like this for, and then more. I suspect with the proper publicity and exposure that we could be looking at the start of a promising brand new franchise.

Alone screened in Singapore as part of the French Film Festival 2017 and is now showing in local cinemas.


ABOUT THE WRITER

Mickey Chua is a film student, aspiring screenwriter and huge TV enthusiast. He enjoys his coffee, having inspiring conversations with people around him, and is never one to back away from a challenge. He may appear brooding at times, but is probably just coming up with bad jokes in his head.
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