New record for movie attendance this weekend: almost twenty in the theater. Do not worry, dear reader, there was plenty of space between everyone. Actually, Save Yourselves! is an interesting film for the interesting times we are now in. Or are they still? I am guessing many of you have gotten a little sick of being pent up inside your homes, even pining to go back to work with a live person instead of a computer screen. This week’s film captures some of that angst, but turns it into a throwback to a 1950s “B” science fiction/horror film. Whereas those predecessors were supposed to be taken seriously and often warned against communism, this one is played for laughs but also a cautionary tale of the dangers of a lifetime spent glued to screens.
Jack (John Reynolds) and Su (Sunita Mani), the two main characters in Save Yourselves!, are basically useless. They work, they go out with friends, and spend most of the rest of their time politely ignoring each other at home by letting social media and other technology consume them. Two things shake their world: the first happens when they encounter their friend Raph (Ben Sinclair) who offers to let them stay at a cabin he had refurbished in upstate New York; the second is when they realize just how much technology is getting in the way of living a normal life. Thus they decide to get away for a week, and completely detoxify their lives from modern conveniences by roughing it at the cabin and away from civilization. Their timing proves somewhat fortuitous as the Earth is invaded by an alien species of fur balls (think tribbles from the classic Star Trek episode and you get the idea) who, despite their cute exterior, are killing machines with long tentacles and a taste for ethanol. Being away from civilization allows Jack and Su to ignore the extraterrestrial intrusion for a while as they attempt, as they put it, to change their “brain chemistry.” Things do not go quite as smoothly as they might have hoped as their technology-fast only seems to underscore how few skills they have outside of their digital bubbles. They also begin to notice the fluffs. Su is the first to crack, and eventually even they begin to come to the realization that all is not right on the planet. They decide to attempt an escape, but when they come across another group of people who are attacked by fluffs, one of the survivors manages to steal their car. What is also left behind from the other car is a baby, who Jack and Su thankfully take in. Unfortunately, though, they are now on foot and end up wandering around in the woods. . . .
Okay, we are getting to the end here in Save Yourselves! and I suppose I will put a spoiler warning here, for all the good that will do. If anyone reading this has seen this movie and cares to explain the ending to me better than what I am about to reproduce here, please feel free to contact me. Anyway, here goes nothing. So in the midst of changing the baby’s diaper, somehow they inhale something that causes them to begin to hallucinate, or act strangely, or something. Their speech becomes slurred and they stagger around like drunks. I do not know why this happens, but maybe there is something I missed? What saves them from their stupor, eventually, are a set of Epipens that they found in a backpack that once belonged to the baby’s parents. Once they come to, and recover the baby, they happen upon a crystal jammed into the forest floor, which they decide to investigate. Of course, it is at this point that their cell phones get a signal, and in the midst of trying to use them the crystal slowly engulfs them in a capsule. Once securely cocooned, they begin to float off and up into outer space, and the film ends. What? We do not get to see what becomes of them, they just drift off into the Milky Way. I was basically with the movie every step of the way, but the ending left me scratching my head as to its meaning.
Despite its nebulous ending, we are meant to laugh at Save Yourselves! What do you get when you put two motor-functioningly inept yuppies in an apocalyptic survival situation? You get Save Yourselves! There is a lot at work here to unpack. The best way of summing up the emotional state of this movie is when Su says early on, “Out individual lives are meaningless, but only if you think about it.” There are subtle moments throughout that reinforce this idea, such as when Jack complains that he doesn’t know how to be a man. My favorite, though, is the shirt Su is wearing at the end that has the outline of the state of Maine on it with its postal abbreviation: ME. In other words, what do so many people in our pointless social media world believe that everything is about? Me. Now, I am not trying to say that Jack and Su are bad people. They were raised in a culture that basically led them to being the kind of people they turned out to be. But if you have been reading this blog a bit, I am sure you can guess where I believe they could have gone for the meaning they so desperately wanted to find: God. And neither do you need to retreat to the woods, or space, to do so. I am reminded of the Franciscans of the Renewal, some of whose order I studied with at the House of Prayer in Clearwater, Florida, to earn my certification in Spiritual Direction. Many of them serve out of a few houses around New York City and its burrows, tending to the needs of the poor. Such a comparison is apropos when you consider that Jack and Su, after talking to their friend Raph and learning of his various “socially enlightened” endeavors, wanted to do something big for society. I truly believe that desire to do something incredible and good resides in most of us, but we get defeated or discouraged (or end up being kidnaped by aliens, I suppose) before we even start because we see the problem but it is too big. Instead, try doing one thing at a time, as the Franciscans of the Renewal feed one needy person at a time.
While Save Yourselves! can be silly and irreverent at times, it does have a decent message in it. I do not know as though I cared for Jack and Su, much. I was thankful when they took in the baby, but sighed a great deal at much of the rest of their behavior. Look, I do not have all the answers, and I have my own bit of social media wanderings that I do. And there are Catholic orders that actually use things like Twitter and Instagram quite effectively. Better than I do, anyway. Still, I feel I can safely say that I have a slightly broader skill set than do Jack and Su. So my sighs were more relegated to them not knowing how to properly light a camp fire, or identify a shooting star (which turned out to be the pods that brought the fluffs), or them smoking weeds, or the fact that Su was on birth control and that they were not married. Outside of these things, there is nothing too objectionable about the film.