THIS WORLD ALONE

Apocalyptic Growing Pains

(The 16th Annual Oxford Film Festival (at which HtN editor Don R. Lewis is Narrative Features Programmer) ran February 6-10 in Oxford, Mississippi. Jordan Noel’s This World Alone won the prize for Best Narrative Feature. Like what you see here on Hammer to Nail? Why not pay just $1.00 per month via Patreon to help keep us going?)

Everyone is feeling pretty bleak these days. The Worldwide Magic 8-Ball keep coming up “Outlook Not Good.” So there seems to be no shortage of cinematic post-apocalyptic hellscapes. This World Alone is set after the collapse of modern society known as “The Fall.” But what sets this film apart is that it manages to paint a pretty effective picture of post-electronic life through dialogue and forest settings. Screenwriter Hudson Phillips wrote a powerful story that could be produced on a shoestring budget. His debut feature tells the story of 3 women attempting to thrive in a remote cabin, apart from a society that has embraced Old Testament thinking to bring order to the chaos. Director/editor Jordan Noel compliments the script with his intimate direction and slow-burn pacing.

Belle Adams stars as Sam, a 20-year-old woman who grew up with only books to inform her world view. And so, she longs to see what’s left of the world. But her hardened mother Connie (Carrie Walrond Hood), doesn’t think Sam would make it a day out there on her own. Connie tries to prepare Sam for a harsh world by teaching her to fight and forcing her to sacrifice her pet pig for their supper. Sam is less than enthused about these lessons, creating a familiar mother/daughter power struggle. You can expect to hear Sam make vows about how she will treat her own children someday.

Sophie Edwards has a small but effective role as Willow, a woman who teamed up with Connie when Sam was a baby, in order to protect each other from those who would exploit their vulnerabilities. None of these women are shrinking violets, but their remove does have its disadvantages, such as not having access to antibiotics.

When Willow suffers a life-threatening injury, Sam takes it upon herself to venture to New Macedonia to procure life-saving drugs. Connie fears for her daughter but lets her go (making Sam think it was all her own idea, like any good mother).

Sam doesn’t get very far before she runs into Dart (Lau’rie Roach), an 18-year-old boy returning to his community after completing a rite of passage called a “Walkabout.” Dart explains that when boys reach a certain age, they go into the woods for a couple of days. If they survive on their own, they return to the village a man. Unfortunately, the patriarchy is alive and well in New Macedonia, and only men are allowed to prove themselves in this way, while women are relegated roles better suited to their “weakness”.

Phillips does an excellent job making exposition sound conversational. Sam fills in the blanks with the occasional voiceover in conjunction with scrapbook style imagery. Phones, and “internets” are a thing of the past. But in some ways, it’s better, because no one can exploit grief for monetary gain. The exposition is coupled with meditations on the differences between the old world and the new. One common thread in post-apocalyptic stories is that the only information left is in books, the Christian bible being the most indestructible text of all. (Though at least Sam also gets Tolkien). The patriarchy thrives through the endurance of biblical “law.” Meanwhile, all those enlightened articles from Teen Vogue you posted on your Facebook are lost forever. And after hearing so much about New Macedonia, I didn’t really want to see the place. Nothing good could come of our characters ending up there. As it happens, just interacting with men who come from New Macedonia causes all sorts of problems for our female protagonists.

This World Alone is an excellent film, tonally, it’s a tough hang. I relished the one laugh-out-loud moment when Sam learns that women in New Macedonia aren’t allowed to pass gas in mixed company. Understandably incensed, Sam exclaims, “When I get to New Macedonia I’m going to liberate all the women and all their farts!” I suppose in a post-apocalyptic world, jokes are probably as scarce as everything else.

Like what you see here on Hammer to Nail? Why not pay just $1.00 per month via Patreon to help keep us going?

– Jessica Baxter (@tehBaxter)

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