The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have changed the way humans interact forever. Video cameras have become our window to the outside world, the only portals we have for human interaction. Naturally, creators have turned their attention to exploring this portal through their art. That is why I was not surprised to see several films with storylines revolving around the pandemic at SXSW 2021. Alone Together and The End of Us are two films that screened during the festival. While both are set in the pandemic, they are two very different films exploring the social and mental implications of living life through the camera portal.
Alone Together is About Community
Charli XCX is an international pop star who has money, fame, and can have anything she wants within minutes. All she has to do is say the word. Yet, she created Alone Together as a sort of treatment for a depression and anxiety spiral that she had been battling since the pandemic started. The end result is a documentary of sorts that follows the musician as she creates her next album, and also a look at how fandom communities have been during the pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued resources on COVID-19 and mental health issues. Millions of people are suffering and seeking help, many of them are finding that help in their fan communities. In Alone Together, Charli, the subject of the fandom turned to them and found the help she needed as well, in addition to therapy.
The popstar would reach out whether she was feeling at her best or when she was feeling at her worst. The fans, however, have stories of their own that directors Bradley Bell And Pablo Jones-Soler captured through the lenses of zoom meetings and the fan’s own cameras. Called Angels (as in Charli’s Angels), these fans and so many others engaged Charli as she reached out every day over the course of a month. The goal was to create a new album. The result was a stronger bond between creator and fan that nourished both in ways that no one could have expected.
Charli posted live videos on Instagram and spoke to her Angels over zoom calls. She talked without filter or a script, sometimes sharing her innermost feelings and other times getting feedback on the songs she was working on that day. They all would “fangirl” over the idea of a star in their midst. However, once the group discovered that something was wrong, they quickly switched to the communal model and embraced her as if she were one of their own.
Some audiences may be distracted by the way Bell and Jones-Soler created the narrative. They use obvious game settings and gamer avatars to represent some of the fans. This style of storytelling does offer a way to describe the mental illness in a way that is more expressive for her and representative for the audience. The audience must also be aware of the amateur cinematography as much of the film is shot by Charli, her boyfriend, or her manager. This technique just works to break through the persona of the star, to see the woman who is reaching out for help.
Alone Together is premiered at SXSW.
Rating 4 of 5
The End of Us Offers Laughs and the Realities Relationships in COVID-19
What would happen if your long-term relationship ended the day before the world locked-down due to the coronavirus pandemic? Does the lockdown freeze time? Stop the breakup? Or, does it create some new relationships that couples just deal with? These questions are explored in The End of Us.
Nick (Ben Coleman) and Ali (Leah Russo) are at the natural end of a four-year relationship. They fight and part, missing the news that the state of California is under a “Shelter in Place” order. This means no one leaves. The End of Us is set at the beginning of the pandemic, so the couple doesn’t know much. However, they must figure out how to stay in one place without driving each other crazy.
In the beginning, Nick is an actor who is essentially unemployed, while Ali works in the travel industry. She tries to work from home, while he is having an existential crisis. Both are petty and a bit selfish but are still trying to be respectful of one another. Then, Ali loses her job. She tumbles into a depression spiral that Nick cannot break. He becomes the caregiver, cleaning, cooking, and caring for the vegetation outside. Gardening.
Then, Ali is in contact with a friend. They begin an online relationship that at one point puts the household in jeopardy. She breaks protocol on a date and her friend later calls to tell her that he has coronavirus. Nick is not happy, and his anger escalates until they both decide he must move.
The break and the scare shake up the couple and force both people to act. The pandemic has paralyzed us all when it comes to decision-making. The End of Us is all about making the hard decisions even if they mean moving from the comfortable, predictable, and safe space we are in. Life must go on, even in a pandemic. Ali and Nick illustrate this in a comedic and lightly dramatic way.
The film is quirky while making some important commentary. For some people, the limited scenery and Nick may come off as very annoying. The narrative is still strong and will keep their interests or curiosity until the end.
The End of Us premiered at SXSW.
Rating 3.5 of 5
Two Different Views of Lockdown in Film
Both Alone Together and The End of Us explore mental health and relationships in the pandemic. They are two totally different perspectives and situations. I anticipate more films on the pandemic covering different even more angles because there are millions of people going through this, many of whom have yet to tell their stories. These two are just the tip of those cinematic possibilities.
The post SXSW Reviews: Lockdown Narratives ‘Alone Together’ and ‘The End of Us’ appeared first on The Black Cape Magazine.