Alone With You [Grimmfest Review]: Trapped in Loneliness
After the past few years, we’ve all had it’s not hard to imagine the feelings of claustrophobia, panic and existential dread that come from being locked in a singular location for an extended period of time. We’ve all suffered through it in one way or another, and that’s what makes the protagonist’s emotional experience in this gripping psychological Horror, Alone With You, not only relatable but painfully familiar. Set predominantly in one singular location, the couple’s exquisitely decorated apartment, this immersive and nightmarish film is shrouded in mysteries that become ever more tangled as they unravel towards the truth of what is happening to this young woman.
Charlie (Emily Bennett) is hard at work, making sure everything is prepared for the return of her girlfriend Simone (Emma Myles) who has been away for a job. It’s their anniversary, and there seems to be an undercurrent of tension between the two, so everything needs to be exactly as she plans it, a perfect night together. The candles are lit, flowers out, the wine is open and Charlie has dressed in a silky nightgown for the occasion. There’s clear nervous energy as she awaits her girlfriend’s arrival. Energy that soon spirals into full-blown anxiety and panic as time ticks by and Charlie begins to experience unsettling events and disorientating visions.
Voices echo through the house, possibly from the vents, possibly from Charlie’s mind. A shadowed figure lurks just beyond her unopenable front door, refusing to help or even acknowledge her existence. Time seems to become nonexistent, pictures move by themselves, and still, she cannot get through to Simone. Her attempts to contact the outside world are met with unanswered voicemails, repetitive 911 messages, and some increasingly disturbing video calls to her drunk friend at the club and her overly virtuous and judgemental mother in her eerily sundrenched home.
“This deeply personal piece touches upon the many things in life that can make us feel locked in…”
Soaked in dread, the puzzle pieces of this film are fed to us slowly through flashbacks that show the cracks in Charlie and Simone’s relationship. Its slow-burn build reveals a toxic layer to their partnership with one scene involving Simone spouting philosophical rhetoric about humans being animals, and how eventually everything boils down to fucking or killing, all of which reads like a justification for her seemingly cruel and selfish actions towards her girlfriend. Everything ramps up towards the third act when the internalised seeps over onto the screen and the mayhem and haunting visuals take over. Whaling walls cry out that Charlie is ‘not here’ and we truly don’t know if she is, either physically and mentally, still there.
Bennett nails her role as the vulnerable Charlie, a woman who longs to be a wildflower but only perceives herself as a wallflower. Her spiralling journey into madness, and haunting exploration of memories and mysteries, keep the tension of this largely singular location set Horror thrilling to watch. Accompanied by some brilliant supporting cast members, with Dora Madison as the drunken friend who wants more for Charlie than what Simone is offering, and the ever incredible Barbara Crampton as the overbearing religious mother who exemplifies Charlie’s feelings of unworthiness, there’s still plenty of interaction in the film. Even if it is predominantly through flickering screens.
Co-writers and directors, Emily Bennett and Justin Brooks do an excellent job together in creating a tense and atmospheric feature film debut for the two of them. They explore a shattered mind with superb dialogue and arresting visuals that alternate between harrowing saturated flashbacks, the romanticised black and white point of view shots, to nightmare-inducing hallucinations with ease and skill, never losing the main thread of the narrative. This deeply personal piece touches upon the many things in life that can make us feel locked in, our job, our home, our relationship, our hidden or unsupported identities, and brings the crushing effects of these to the screen. Alone With You makes sure its mysteries linger in the audience’s brain as we, just like Charlie, must figure out what has just happened and what it all truly means.