Alone Together, from writer/director/star Katie Holmes, is a flawed but enjoyable lockdown-set romance.
Remember the early days of the pandemic? The times in March 2020 when the world was in denial of the catastrophe heading our way? That’s the setting of Alone Together, Katie Holmes’s newest film, which she wrote and directed in addition to starring in. It’s a strong second directorial feature from Holmes, even if her script leans on some overused rom-com tropes.
Alone Together follows June (Holmes), an uptight NYC food critic who makes the trek from the Upper West Side to a countryside Airbnb in the early days of the pandemic. She’s setting out to meet her boyfriend John (Derek Luke) on a brief escape from the city as it shuts down due to Covid-19. She arrives at the countryside house to find it’s been double booked by another guest, Charlie (Jim Sturgess), a rugged mechanic. John decides to stay in the city, leaving June to ride out the pandemic with Charlie. The two houseguests occupy their time with games, booze, and socially distant fast-food runs, and soon find themselves falling for each other.
Intriguing premise aside, there are some rom-com traps that Holmes can’t avoid.
It’s a clever premise that Holmes evolved, taking inspiration from those viral stories of stranded travelers who forged bonds with other stuck travelers during the pandemic. It’s also a bold choice to make a rom-com about two stranded strangers set during one of the most traumatic times of Covid-19. She also doesn’t shy away from the trauma, as the daily news briefs from former NY Governor Cuomo can be heard playing in the background in many scenes. While many of us may not have been able to escape to a nice idyllic countryside Airbnb, who amongst us didn’t also engage in at-home karaoke, card games, or art projects like June and Charlie?
Intriguing premise aside, there are some rom-com traps that Holmes can’t avoid. Charlie and June are opposites – he prefers Mcdonald’s while she’s used to Michelin-star cuisine – who can’t help but fall in love. When Charlie and June go on a bike ride through town, Charlie stops in front of a quaint inn and comments if the world were ending, that’s where you’d find him. Anyone who’s seen a rom-com will probably roll their eyes at the heavy foreshadowing pointing towards June and Charlie’s likely reunion at the end.
Holmes has crafted a clever rom-com romance, even if it does fall into familiar trope territory.
Alone Together is Holmes’s second directorial feature. She’s got some strong emotional moments that capture the quiet moments of despair. When John reconciles with June at the Airbnb (thus forcing Charlie out of the house), Holmes focuses on June’s silent frustration and sadness. There’s a scene where June makes dinner for John; he declines her homemade meal and orders take-out. You can see Holmes picking up on the nuances of their relationship – June wants to love John for ordering her favorite Indian meal, but she is also disappointed that he’s not interested in trying her casserole.
One of the other strong points of Alone Together is Jim Sturgess’ performance. His reunion with his worrisome mother Deborah (Melissa Leo) is bittersweet – he drops off some groceries for her. She says she wants to hug him; he says it’s not safe (it is April 2020, and a vaccine is far off the horizon). It’s a gut-punch of a moment, with both actors portraying nearly-impossible restraint to keep a loved one safe.
Alone Together with all its flaws and stumblings, is still an enjoyable watch. One might even find themselves feeling a bit nostalgic for lockdown activities. Holmes has crafted a clever rom-com romance, even if it does fall into familiar trope territory. It’s also an admirable second directorial outing for Holmes, one that makes it exciting to see what she’ll have to offer audiences in her future as a feature director.
Alone Together is now playing in theaters and arrives on digital on July 29th.