Digital Divides and Perilous Puffs: Our Review of ‘Save Yourselves!’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - October 02, 2020
Digital Divides and Perilous Puffs: Our Review of ‘Save Yourselves!’

Let’s be serious. When the end of the world happens, you’ll probably hear about it on Twitter first.

At a time when we get all of our news from our social threads, it’s fair to say that the way that we relate to one another has changed, though not necessarily for the better. Chatting through emojis and memes while we scroll through TikTok and YouTube subscriptions, personal interaction in relationships has become more difficult as we hide behind our online personas. (Of course, a global pandemic that keeps us indoors hasn’t helped either.)

This cultural obsession with our devices is on trial in Save Yourselves!, a fun sci-fi comedy that ends up feeling more relevant than you might expect. Written and directed by Eleanor Wilson and Alex Huston Fischer, Save Yourselves! introduces us to Su (Sunita Mani) and Jack (John Paul Reynolds), a young Millennial couple whose relationship has plateaued emotionally. Though they’re dedicated to one another, their evenings consist of watching tv in a room together while they each sit on their phones, engaging the online world. Frustrated by their stagnant connection, the two head up to a cabin in the woods and commit to unplugging their phones so that they can focus on one another. As they enjoy their serene surroundings, they remain blissfully unaware of the fact that the world has fallen under attack from alien invaders.

Primarily filmed in one location, Wilson and Fischer make good use of their surroundings and limited budget to tell a story that entertains due to the enthusiasm of its cast. Though most ‘alien invasion’ films want to ‘wow’ you with their visuals, Save Yourselves embraces its campy visuals that feel more akin to classic B-movies like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! than Mars Attacks!. In other words, the more the film celebrates the silly and fun, the more it works.

With (literally) minimal special effects, Save Yourselves! becomes far more interested in focusing on its characters. Stars Mani and Reynolds inhabit their characters with a certain sense of malaise towards their lives that also seems endearing and genuine. While both offer solid work here, Mani truly shines as the digitally-addicted Su, as she struggles to move forward in her relationship yet maintains a sense of inner courage.

Ultimately though, Save Yourselves! is less of an alien-invasion and more of a generational call to connect. Hooked on their devices, Su and Jack may be in a relationship socially but they struggle to click emotionally. Living their lives through the apps on their phones, their personal ennui stems from their lack of intimacy. With their commitment to spend the week off their devices, Jack and Su finally decide to try to focus on one another and potentially dream forward as a couple. As the week goes by, the ice in their relationship begins to crack as Jack and Su begin to offer genuine confessions about their fears and anxieties, bringing the two of them closer together.

Even so, however, they struggle to fully separate themselves from their online interactions. In other words, though they remain fully aware of the affect that their FOMO is causing their relationship, they have been so shaped by their devices that turning them off is almost too much to bear. In this way, it’s interesting to note that the very ‘puffs’ that they’re trying to escape seem to emulate the online world that they’ve found themselves trapped within. Adorable and seemingly harmless to look at, these ‘puffs’ are more dangerous than they initially appear. Like the social apps that hold Jack and Su’s attention, the ‘puffs’ may be cute but they are always watching them and willing to literally drain the energy from the victims (or vehicles) that are on the menu. (Of course, the great irony here is that, by disconnecting digitally, Su and Jack also miss out on updates and information that could potentially save their lives.) As a result, the real challenge for Jack and Su becomes whether or not they can balance their relationship with the information age with their ability to connect with the ‘real world’.

Though there are moments where Save Yourselves! feels like its veering off-course, Save Yourselves! is an amusing ride that manages to connect the dots. For a generation that struggles with balancing the physical and digital, the story of Jack and Su may be hilarious but it also feels like a challenge to recognize that intimacy lies beyond the latest trends in the app store and between the souls of the people who remain committed to one another.

This post was written by
Born at a very early age, Steve is a Toronto-based writer and podcaster who loves to listen to what matters to our culture on screen. When he first saw Indiana Jones steal the cross of Coronado, he knew his world would never be the same and, since then, he’s found more and more excuses to digest what’s in front of him onscreen. Also, having worked as a youth and community minister for almost 20 years, he learned that stories help everyone engage the world around them. He’s a proud hubby, father (x2) and believes that Citizen Kane, Batman Forever (yes, the Kilmer one), and The Social Network belong in the same conversation. You can hear his ramblings on ScreenFish Radio wherever podcasts are gettable or at his website, ScreenFish.net.
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