Director: Katie Holmes
Writer: Katie Holmes
Stars: Katie Holmes, Jim Sturgess, Derek Luke
The first romance stories about the pandemic were eager productions, desperate to capture (and capitalize on) the uncertainty of the coronavirus plaguing the world. They were reflections of the moment, a set of breathless air currents. Nearly three years into the virus that is far from over, attitudes about it have changed and, I suspect, have standards for the pandemic love affair as well.
Katie Holmes’ second feature, Alone Together, marks a new chapter for this burgeoning subgenre, with flashback loosening its grip on over-sentimentality (although the film doesn’t entirely escape cloying tendencies). Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, this captivating romantic comedy works best as a time capsule of how wealthy New Yorkers lived through the weeks of March and April 2020, when the city went into lockdown and panic ensued. Those were the days when hand sanitizer was sought after. , spraying groceries with disinfectant and listening to then-Governor Andrew Cuomo’s gruff voice on the morning and evening news.
Alone Together opens with a Manhattan-style montage of New York City and our protagonist June (Holmes), a food critic in her early 30s. Her life before the pandemic consists of attending lavish parties with her boyfriend John (Derek Luke), writing furiously in her notebook while she dines on decadent meals at up-and-coming new restaurants. The camera lovingly gazes at the usual New York fixtures and then some: shots of Washington Square Park, the corner of Bar Primi on the Bowery, Central Park, and a shimmering Empire State Building in the distance.
In fact, New York is as much a character in Alone Together as June, which makes it frustrating when that beaming openness leads to a series of contrived moments as our character tries to flee upstate. A homeless person berates her for not giving her money, reminding her that the world is ending and she shouldn’t have to ask him twice. The exhausted writer finally arrives at Grand Central, where an initially chilled station attendant informs her that service has been cut and there won’t be another train for hours. June decides to take a Lyft.
In the car, she gets a strangely perfunctory text from her boyfriend that he won’t be able to meet her upstate as planned. He is worried about her parents and thinks that it is better to stay in the city. She masks her pain and sends him a nice reply. A brief exchange with her driver, in which he tells her a version of “people always think she has more time,” captures the melancholy mood of those early days and telegraphs June’s next adventure.
When June arrives at the colonial-style Airbnb, she is shocked to discover that the spare key is missing and the lights are on. Her phone died, so she can’t call John, who booked the place. She panics and collapses before Charlie (Jim Sturgess) opens the door. The two finally realize that they have been booked twice; It turns out that the owners are going through a complicated divorce, which leads to ineffective communication. (It’s an odd twist when you think about how the pernicious platform works, but it’s best not to overthink it.
It’s a setup, of course, to get June and Charlie to spend time together. The two have easy chemistry, anchored in Holmes’ charming performance. June, a type A person who moved to New York after college and adopted the city as her personality, travels with her favorite bottle of wine and her opener, as well as a stylish, well-coordinated garment bag. taste. Charlie is a native New Yorker who, in his words, “restores things” for a living. At first, he is skeptical of June and her haughty attitude.
The couple’s tense dynamic softens into something sweeter. June and Charlie spend their nights drinking, cooking and playing games. They share their secrets with each other and fall deeply in love. There is an appreciable tenderness in Holmes’ direction here. With the help of cinematographer Martim Vian, Holmes seems to be aiming for an almost Austenian representation of June and Charlie’s time upstate: think spontaneous bike rides, picnics on the lawn, roasting marshmallows over the campfire. These scenes, layered with a brilliant score and intertwined with a wink of irony, help us to miss the predictably plotted script.