It’s “the year humankind lost planet Earth.” By its opening title card, a news-consuming brain could reasonably figure that ‘Save Yourselves!’ takes place in 2020. An increasingly contentious relationship between “humankind” and planet Earth makes every film loaded up on streaming devices feel a little more “timely.” (Exhaustingly so.)
Surely, Alex H. Fischer and Eleanor Wilson, co-writers and directors, couldn’t predict the added layer of social relevance of their extraterrestrial comedy. Besides, ‘Save Yourselves!’ isn’t as heavy-handed or bleak as all of that, nor did Fischer and Wilson craft an overstuffed romp called ‘Attack of the Killer Pouffes’. Instead, they combine equal parts quippy rom-com and monster attack flick, complete with practical effects and a classic sci-fi score composed by Andrew Orkin.
The film asks us to escape the proverbial “bubble” for 90 minutes, and tag along with a loving, smartphone-using couple as they fight furry aliens. The result is a surprisingly sweet story about surviving together in the digital age, and folks: maybe “sweet” and “surviving” are good enough right now.
At the center of ‘Save Yourselves!’ are Su (Sunita Mani) and Jack (John Reynolds). The pair live in Brooklyn together, and spend a disproportionate amount of time staring at their phones.
The cynical assumption would be that Su and Jack’s relationship is doomed, being irreparably riddled with moments of mindless misconnection. The other option is to see ourselves in the couple. (Fischer and Wilson themselves folded quirks from their own relationship into the writing of Su and Jack’s.) After all, we recognize these patterns now more than ever: scroll through your phone, see a funny photo, show your partner, your partner shows you a funny video in return. Swipe, repeat.
The fact is that the couple are indeed happy; they’re just trapped in the digital bubble like the rest of us. Noticing the tech is straining their domestic bliss, Su and Jack decide to take a week off to unplug. They record an away voicemail message, shut off their phones, and head upstate to a remote cabin. Now off the grid, Su and Jack have no idea that aliens have attacked and are taking over the world. It’s when the aliens arrive at the cabin that they must go into survival mode.
Enter the pouffes!
The aliens, dubbed “pouffes,” look like fluffy ottomans you’d perch next to your apartment monstera plant. Hip décor potential aside, these things are horrific. The pouffes have an appetite for ethanol, float around like little furry spaceships and have darting, sticky tongues that can bust right through skulls. Their behavior is erratic in terms of when they will and won’t attack, however. The pouffes have a lack of clearly defined “rules” in this universe, assumedly a script trick to keep our heroes safe til the end. But the shaggy, poofy alien concept is so charming that we forget to care.
Grounding the whimsy of the killer pouffes from outer space are our leads, Sunita Mani and John Reynolds. Comedy and improv chops in their repertoires, they commit both to the bit, and the romance. One moment, Su and Jack are wielding bathroom paraphernalia as weapons, the next, they’re discussing how to be a better couple, and their better selves. Mani and Reynolds have an easy chemistry that makes Su and Jack feel like your ordinary Brooklynites. The pair are just so good at existing together, and in turn we want nothing more than for them to survive this hellscape (with or without aliens).
The clever — and humble — blending of realism with absurdity is what makes ‘Save Yourselves!’ a delight. The film, poofball aliens and all, is on the search for a safe haven amidst all of the screens and self-imposed bubbles. Su and Jack break out of a tech bubble to one of blissful ignorance and find themselves in even more danger.
By the end of ‘Save Yourselves!’ we find that the safest bubble is: 1) with another person (preferably Sunita Mani or John Reynolds), and 2) definitely not on this planet.
‘Save Yourselves!’ is written and directed by Alex H. Fischer and Eleanor Wilson, and presented by Bleecker Street. The film will be in select theaters on October 2nd, and on digital on October 6th.