A tightly wound claustrophobic chiller that stumbles in the third act.
Synopsis: As a young woman painstakingly prepares a romantic homecoming for her girlfriend, their apartment begins to feel more like a tomb when voices, shadows, and hallucinations reveal a truth she has been unwilling to face.
Emily Bennett (also co-writing and co-directing alongside Justin Brooks) plays Charlie, a young woman eagerly awaiting the return of her girlfriend Simone (Emma Myles). As the night wears on, with no sign of Simone, the apartment takes on an increasingly sinister turn.
Setting up Charlie as solitary in the apartment for much of the runtime really allows for that sense of isolation to settle in, resulting in a stifling, uncomfortable atmosphere. Intrusions in the form of phone calls or video chats with her mother (Barbara Crampton in a small role, but nonetheless one that she gives her all) or friend Thea (Dora Madison of Bliss) are the only events that prevent her from being completely alone. That those conversations soon turn tense, focused on the difficult relationship between Charlie and Simone drives her further into damaging introspection.
Early on, the limited location of the apartment becomes far more than a sign of budget constraints – every corner of the apartment is traversed, from portraits on the wall, to a room of photographer Simone’s mannequins, covered in cloth, every single detail is expanded upon, feeling like a lived-in space. That the film allows you to attune so keenly to the surroundings of the flat then allows it to play with rather more subtle scares. The smallest of shifts grabs your attention, even when the film doesn’t linger to draw attention to it. The stolen glimpses and carefully staged movements are some of the better examples of haunting imagery I’ve seen in some time. On the subject of time, the treatment of it here is skilful, distorting time with simple but effective methods.
With all this careful construction within the apartment, it is a shame that the film elects to go a different direction and while that lends it more originality, it does feel like a misstep. Without spoiling the film, it is at its best within the confines of the house and as it strays from that grounding, evolving and becoming more unhinged it does lose a degree of the gripping psychodrama that has previously played out. Your mileage may vary, of course, but for me the strength of the film lies in allowing Bennett’s beautifully layered performance to unfold within the walls.
A film with such a keen sense of building atmosphere in a small, tightly scripted story that comes off the hinges by the conclusion, but still leaves a deeply scary impression.
3 out of 5 stars
Alone With You plays as part of Grimmfest 2021. See the Grimmfest page for more information.