Colin Hanks as Doug
Ana Claudia Talancón as Amy
Jordana Spiro as Jennifer
Jonathon Trent as Matt
Directed by Eric Nicholas
With its notable homage to “Peeping Tom,” this voyeuristic indie thriller could have been better with stronger writing and by eventually breaking away from its experimental storytelling device.
When a young man named Doug (Colin Hanks) becomes infatuated with the beautiful Amy (Ana Claudia Talancón), after he spots her walking her dog in the park, he follows her home, and breaks in the next day to set up secret cameras that will allow him to watch her at all times. With the information he learns from this, he figures out how to meet and befriend her, but can’t deal with the fact that she doesn’t have the same feelings for him.
Shot completely from a series of body-mounted and stationary “hidden” cameras, Eric Nicholas’ debut “Alone With Her” is an interesting idea, if not altogether original in its execution. (British actor Lee Evans starred in a thriller called “Freeze Frame,” which used a similar storytelling device.) With few characters and none of the normal cliches found in typical Hollywood thrillers, it certainly seems like it could offer something different.
We’re introduced to Doug’s world through a series of hidden cameras that he carries around to watch women without them knowing it. He’s the creepiest kind of introverted stalker, one who can only experience life if it’s through the lens of his cameras. Something about Amy (Talancón) immediately strikes him when he sees her in the park, so he follows her home and the next day, he breaks in and installs dozens of hidden cameras that can watch her in every room. Yeah, it’s kind of obsessive, especially since he uses this information to find a way to get closer to her, losing control when her friend Jennifer convinces her to go out with a good-looking co-worker named Matt. From there, Doug uses his omniscient powers to control Amy’s life and get her to do exactly what he wants, tormenting her into becoming closer to this “nice guy” she bumps into at the coffee shop.
Eric Nicholas must fashion himself as a modern-day indie Hitchcock, but once you get past the clever way the footage from Doug’s hidden cameras is cut together to tell the story, you start feeling a bit icky about the creepy concept. Mexican actress Ana Talancón is extremely attractive, but you feel rather intrusive watching her alone in shower or in bed. One wonders whether guys would be nearly as turned-on by beautiful women like her, if they saw what they got up to on their own, as it’s probably not as glamorous as what we’re shown here. If you’re prone to overthinking things, you might also start wondering what you’re watching: are we always seeing things through Doug’s point-of-view or is this footage that he cut together after the fact for some odd reason?
Colin Hanks does a commendable job as the unbalanced main character, possibly since we’ve already seen him playing the nice guy, and this lets him fly off the handle and act a bit nuts when things don’t go his way. Ana does a decent enough job, although her heavy Mexican accent detracts from her being though of as the typical California girl that Amy needs to be. The two actors who play Jennifer and Matt are considerably weaker, but neither plays a very large part in the movie with only a few scenes each.
Nicholas’ dialogue isn’t nearly as strong as his ideas, sounding so false that it distracts from the plausibility of the characters. The movie also gives off some strange messages about gender relationships, particularly how Amy and Jennifer try to figure out ways to lie and avoid Doug, who is one of those “nice guys” that women never seem attracted to. When you combine those scenes with those of Talancón in various states of undress, the whole film seems a lot more misogynistic than Nicholas probably intended.
Beyond the interesting ways Doug uses his knowledge to get his way with Amy, the movie is kind of obvious and predictable, because there are only a few ways things can go from there. It delves further into Hitchcock territory as it goes along, but never really offers the nail-biting suspense that comes with it. The lack of incidental music, while it certainly adds a degree of realism, also takes away from the overall tone Nicholas may have been going for, and the mix of stationary camera work and shaky body-mounted cameras is also hard to adjust to at times.
The Bottom Line:
“Alone With Her” is an interesting attempt at deconstructing the typical thriller using modern indie filmmaking techniques. While Hanks and Talancón do a decent job with the material, Nicholas’ dialogue is far too weak for it to be taken seriously as more than an interesting film experiment. Women are likely to be far too creeped out by the very idea of this film to get through it, but those with a propensity for voyeurism and stalking should be able to relate to Hanks, while ogling Talancón. Here’s hoping you don’t happen to be sitting next to one of them in the theatre.
Alone With Her opens on Wednesday at New York’s IFC Center and is part of the IFC First Take program.