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  • Writer's pictureSaxon Whitehead

'No One Will Save You': A Taut, Inventive Sci-fi Thriller

Under the guise of a home invasion movie, Brian Duffield's sophomore feature, No One Will Save You, quickly reveals itself to be something deeper and more inventive than one might guess. Aliens and alienation are at the core of the film, as Duffield uses sci-fi and horror conventions to spin a metaphorical tale of loneliness, anxiety, and grief. While the film is reckoning with some heavy ideas, the overall presentation of them is done in a simple, minimalist manner. This, in turn, narrows the film's focus to allow what Duffield is trying to say come across loud and clear. But the minimalism is not just limited to the film's small cast or its few locations, as the film features almost no dialogue over its 93 minute runtime. In some ways, this film feels like a weird experiment, which might be why Disney felt that it should go direct to streaming as opposed to getting a theatrical release. This is a shame, because this film feels made to be seen on a big screen with a full house, and probably would have done fairly at the box office given the word of mouth that it has already generated. That being said, I was still gripped by this film all throughout it. Between its use of genre elements, Duffield's stellar direction, and a knockout performance from Kaitlyn Dever, this is easily one of the year's biggest surprises, and a genuinely great thriller in its own right.

Brynn (Kaitlyn Dever) is ostracized by her community due to a traumatic event from her past, and spends most of her time alone in her childhood home. She busies herself by working as a seamstress, building a model town, visiting her mother's grave, and writing letters to her deceased friend, Maude. Late one night, an intruder breaks into Brynn's house. She quickly discovers that it is an alien, which sets an intense battle between the two into motion. In the process, Brynn must confront both the invader and her own past, or she will fall victim to the alien's nefarious plan.

At the time of writing, I have not seen Brian Duffield's debut feature, Spontaneous, but I do know that it similarly blends horror and social commentary like this film does. If this film is any indication, he has a gift for this, as he is a solid genre filmmaker, and the ideas he tackles come across naturally and never feel heavy handed. There is an effortlessness to his directing style, but he also seems rather detail oriented. There are so many specific aspects to this film that have to be precise in order for it to work, and the fact that he pulls almost all of them off is impressive. The sequences where the alien is in the house are especially stunning, as Duffield accomplishes so much by using sound and practical effects to heighten the tension and suspense. Furthermore, the film's tight runtime and distinct focus keeps it from making any unnecessary diversions, and lets the story unfold succinctly. My only real complaint about the film is that is starts to get a little wonky in the third act, and loses a bit of momentum in the process. But thankfully, it recovers and has a bold, fascinating ending. I really want to check out Duffield's other work, as this film alone makes him one of the most exciting genre filmmakers working today. I appreciate anyone who can take something relatively simple and add some substance to it, and that is precisely what he does here.

While on the topic of substance, the alienation and anxiety that is felt throughout the film is incredibly poignant, and really connected with me. Anxiety is a tough thing to portray, as it affects everyone differently, but I must say that this film depicts it rather well. Duffield does a great job not making it feel showy or stereotypical, and lets the emotions that the character of Brynn feels bleed into the film itself, and allows the audience to feels what she is experiencing. This, coupled with the grim atmosphere of the film, gives off a healthy dose of dread which enhances the film in the process. There are layers to the film that I was not expecting, and I may need a little more time to process some of them, but Duffield definitely has the juice as a filmmaker, and is able to mix style and substance so well.

One might think that this film having almost no dialogue is a gimmick, and while there may be some validity to that, it serves a clear purpose, and lets the visuals do the talking. The practical effects are quite strong, but even the CGI isn't half bad given how low the budget was for this film. The alien design is akin to traditional grey aliens, which gives off a sense of familiarity. The fact that the film doesn't linger too much on the aliens when they appear is a nice touch as well, and builds suspense nicely. The use of light, as well as the production design is quite strong as well, and Duffield's visual storytelling in general accomplishes so much.

The linchpin of the entire film, however, is Kaitlyn Dever's tremendous performance. Dever only has one line in the entire film, which she absolutely makes count, but her expressiveness and emotional vulnerability is what elevates her work here. Kaitlyn Dever is an actor who I have enjoyed seeing in everything she's done, even if the project itself isn't all that great. Her performance here might be her best one yet, as it plays to her strengths while still challenging her in the process. She shows herself to be up to the task here, and delivers one of her finest performances to date. Dever has proven herself to be great in comedies and dramas, but this film shows that she can do genre stuff incredibly well too. She honestly could be a scream queen if she wanted to, and I would love to see her do some more horror, but more than anything, I am so glad to see her continue to turn in great performances, and I can't wait to see what she does next.

No One Will Save You is a film that wasn't even on my radar until just recently, but it is easily one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. It is a tense, thrilling film that intersects home invasion movies with alien invasion movies, and uses them to depict loneliness in a simple, yet rich way. I will never understand why Disney punted this to Hulu, as it seems like it would have been a slam-dunk in theaters. But this is a film that I can see reaching a wide audience because it is available via streaming, or at the very least will become a bit of a cult classic over time. It is refreshingly original, a great genre exercise, and a stunning film about alienation and grief that connected with me on a much deeper level than I was anticipating.

Rating: 4/5

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