We’ve all imagined how we’d handle the end of the world. Perhaps you think you’d fight heroically to the bitter end against the zombies or aliens, or perhaps you don’t want any part of that and plan on giving up immediately. Either way, we’ve all thought about it, and you’ve probably landed on some clean narrative that’s been implanted in your head by the countless end of the world stories that saturate pop culture.
So what if reality is far more mundane? What if the end comes and you prove utterly incapable of doing anything but going with the flow, like hiding in your home from a virus that slowly breaks down economies and civilizations until even your Netflix goes out?
Sorry, that’s reality. Save Yourselves! is about an alien invasion, but in a way that’s oddly parallel to our current moment, it’s very much about how two people bumble through it alone. Not that Su and Jack wanted to face it alone. They were just trying to take a break from their very plugged in world with a trip to a friend’s cabin. No phones, no computers, just quiet old nature, a chance to remind themselves of what actually matters instead of getting distracted by the din. And then the aliens showed up.
Su and Jack are the kind of hopeless big city millennials with zero survival skills you expect to die first, but their isolation buys them enough time to bungle amusingly through humanity’s downfall. It’s a lighthearted critique of our dependence, a comedy of manners for the constantly online that should have been an amusing aside instead of a topical parallel to real life. It’s still amusing, but it does seem oddly more pointed now that we’ve been confronted with how tenuous our cushy lives are. That may make you want more than what Save Yourselves! is offering, but that also makes its frivolity refreshing. At least this movie is treating the downfall as all doom and gloom.
A Slow End
A make or break aspect of Save Yourselves! is its pacing, which holds off the real end of the world stuff until late in the game. The aliens actually show up pretty early (they’re innocuous-looking balls of fluff), but our couple takes a long time to realize what’s going on. They’re too busy getting their kumbaya’s on to see the warning signs circling their isolated abode, and they write off the bits they do notice, like the random gunshots, as usual, country life. This playful staving off of panic is part of the fun, and whether you go with it or get frustrated by it will probably determine whether the movie works for you.
Personally, I found the teasing hilarious, a fun way of emphasizing that the movie isn’t actually about the aliens but instead about the people in the invader’s way. The writing and directing team of Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson clearly expect you to know going in what is awaiting the couple, and the ominous voicemails Su sneaks a listen to and the violent deaths going on just out of the couple’s eyesight are classic examples of the audience knowing more than the characters. You will be putting together the timeline of humanity’s downfall while the characters are still drunkenly playing games, aka you will be experiencing comedy gold.
It does, of course, eventually amp up, and the late-game turn feels a tad too big compared to everything that’s come before. This is a grounded story that deserved a more grounded conclusion, even if it did always involve alien fluffs. Because of that, you are left with a bit of a sour aftertaste, but it doesn’t spoil the goodness that came before.
The Two Stooges Of The Apocalypse
Most of the goodwill this film engenders is due to the perfectly calculated main characters, who are the only people you see for most of the movie. Su and Jack could’ve easily been annoying caricatures of directionless, self-absorbed thirtysomethings, but they genuinely fit together, which goes a long way to making them feel like rounded human beings.
Jack is a kind of purposefully unmasculine male: a baker, terrible at chopping wood, very sweet, and very aware of himself. Su is the kind of person who keeps herself busy to avoid looking at herself, so she’s pretty terrible at this relaxing thing. They are perfectly hapless together whether the world is ending or not, a product of the culture they are far too immersed in.
That’s the point of the movie, really: that our culture is killing us. That our constant reliance on YouTube tutorials and people telling us how to be and dress and act is a distraction from what really matters, which isn’t a deep enough observation to really hang a movie on. That makes Save Yourselves! a slight pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless, especially since the scenario gives them plenty of opportunities to cycle through the strengths and weaknesses of these sorts of people.
This juggling of endearing and annoying qualities is quite wonderfully done by leads Sunita Mani and John Reynolds, who bounce with ease between stupidly funny decisions (they notice a fluff early on and completely ignore it) and moments of emotional intelligence that brings them unexpected security. This isn’t, thankfully, the kind of movie where our leads fall apart. They stick together through thick and thin, acknowledging mistakes and moving forward in a way that is oddly calming. They’re good people at heart, and the way they’ve grown in this culture isn’t without its benefits. Because of that, they may just be able to save themselves, but everyone else is on their own.
Conclusion: Save Yourselves!
As a lighthearted take on the end of the world, Save Yourselves! is an enjoyable distraction. Those wanting something more, be it a strong critique of our culture’s flaws or some serious alien-fighting, will figure out pretty quick that this movie isn’t for them.
What did you think of Save Yourselves!? What are some of your favorite humorous spins on the end of the world? Let us know in the comments!
Save Yourselves! is in theaters in the US on October 2nd, 2020, and on digital October 6th.
Watch Save Yourselves!
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