(The following story contains spoilers for No one will save you.)
On a quiet weekend at the domestic box office, Brian Duffield’s alien invasion thriller No one will save you became the talk of the town on social media. The Hulu release, which features virtually no dialogue, marks another crucial win for Duffield following his critically acclaimed directorial debut, Spontaneouslyand it has even been received Guillermo del Toro And Stefan King‘s stamps of approval.
The Kaitlyn Dever-led sci-fi film starts with the high concept of an alien home invasion, but eventually expands the scope to something more affecting on a character level. Dever’s Brynn Adams accidentally killed her 12-year-old best friend ten years earlier, and her small town of Mill River has since made her persona non grata, resulting in a life of alienation in her late mother’s home.
To pass the time, Brynn makes dresses, builds idyllic dioramas of Mill River, cooks, dances and writes letters of regret to her late friend Maude. When an alien invasion comes to town, Brynn gives an alien explorer more than he bargained for, and like Maude, she accidentally kills him. This leads to more aliens taking an interest in Brynn, until they later abduct her in one of their UFOs and discover her tragic memories.
Recognizing her remorse and personal struggle to forgive herself, the aliens free Brynn and give her the second chance that her fellow Mill River residents refused to give. At the very end, she dances in the streets of Mill River with alien-possessed people, some of whom once rejected her, while her own diorama has seemingly come to life. The world may have been overrun by this gray alien species, but Brynn is now living the best life she can.
Ultimately, the title of No one will save you says so much about the point of the entire exercise, in that Brynn had to save herself and, more importantly, forgive herself.
“She’s finally getting something she thought she would never deserve, and I love the idea that this child, who has been through so much, had a very happy ending, as strange as it may be,” Duffield says. The Hollywood Reporter. “I like horror movies with a real slap-in-your-face ending, but I liked Brynn too much to punch her in the face.”
Below, during the spoiler, half of a two-part conversation with THRDuffield also discusses the global implications of this alien invasion and whether there are more exceptions like Brynn.
Brynn lives an isolated existence that involves making clothes, building dioramas, cooking, dancing, and writing letters, and we learn that she is estranged from her community because she accidentally killed her best friend Maude ten years earlier. Assuming she wasn’t struggling as a 12-year-old, can you imagine her now-deceased mother keeping her busy with all those activities during a lengthy house arrest?
We had the feeling she was going to a juvenile detention center. It was a script, and honestly, we didn’t shoot the movie because of the weather, if I remember correctly. It was a combination of weather, outdoor days and whether it was too much for the audience to see all these glimpses. It would have been part of that alien drawn flashback.
There were a few instances where similar things happened to young people, and I probably had an unhealthy fixation on that. It was different from a school shooter, which is so bleak and horrible. And then there were cases like the two girls involved in the stabbing on Slender Man (2014), where it felt like you were dealing with adolescents making disgusting mistakes. How do you live the rest of your life after that? Heavenly beings is one of my favorite movies, and after digging deep into that movie, I found out that one of the girls changed her name (Juliet Hulme) and became a fairly successful author (Anne Perry), until that was discovered about her .
There was just something sad and lonely about a young girl barely even a teenager having her entire life decided in that one moment, and that felt like a really interesting character. Now she’s alone in her mother’s house, but she hasn’t really had puberty. She really loves what she loves. Kaitlyn (Dever) and I have talked a lot about how Brynn is a 10-year-old’s idea of what a 30-year-old is, and part of that is because her mom has a vintage aesthetic. Ramsey Avery, our production designer, also played a big role in this.
So Brynn has missed her teenage years, and she’s not going to make it to her ‘Rumspringa’, where she goes and sows her wild oats. She will never have that experience, and she is too scared to even go grocery shopping. So it was interesting to have a character who had done a lot of healing over the last ten years. She had built herself a perfect little bubble that was a little fake and a little idealized, but for her it was as good as it could get. She just tried to make the best of it.
And when I came up with the idea of adding an alien invasion on top of that and her microscopic world being destroyed, it felt like an interesting way to talk about that character through a lens that you would never expect.
So an alien invades her home, and like her friend Maude, she accidentally kills it. This leads to more aliens coming to her door, and we see that the aliens take a keen interest in her childhood photos with Maude. Are they just trying to gain insight into who we are as a species?
That was something we talked about from the beginning. We really wanted the aliens, especially the Grays, to seem very intelligent but also very alien. That first encounter with aliens has a checklist of what needs to be done in the house that night, and Brynn may be the eighth thing on the list. And things as simple as learning what a refrigerator is can be number three. So the priorities would be different and turn out differently because they are so much better than us.
With the pictures and all, it partly came from a desire to give the audience the tools to put these pieces together, but to the aliens it was very surprising that this particular person became so annoying. She is in many ways the most unlikely. So for much of that first night, the alien was thinking, “Are there other people in the house? Are there other things we are not prepared for? “And so it starts from there and then grows into a curiosity and an interest in Brynn, and as a filmmaker we can talk about her and the things that she’s been through.
And if you have a hyper-intelligent species that’s curious about us, they’re not just coming to wipe the slate clean. There’s a real curiosity about Brynn, and as they start to discover things about her, they actually want to know what happens next in her story. (Laughs.) And so it was fun to just play with them as sort of explorers. This girl fights so hard, and if you saw an animal do something bizarre and strange, you would think, “Oh, I didn’t know elephants could do something like that.” It’s a “I want to see the next YouTube video about that” type of quality. So the aliens want to figure her out that way, and hopefully the audience does too.
Brynn is eventually abducted in a UFO, and during an investigation she is forced to relive her traumatic memories before ultimately forgiving herself. Do the aliens ultimately free her because they can sense the genuine remorse she feels for both Maude and perhaps even the original alien she killed?
Yeah, not to put too much emphasis on it, but it was a very fine line to walk. You don’t want the close-up of the alien with a tear running down his cheek, where he really feels and understands that. The nice thing about them is that you don’t understand, and she doesn’t necessarily understand why, which can be frustrating for some. It’s so bizarre what happens in the third act, but she does have that moment where she can literally hold her hand. And after that’s done, she’s good to go. It’s a real burden off her shoulders.
And then everything else that happens isn’t necessarily what she expected or what the audience expected, but she’s not Tom Cruise. There is never a world where she launches nuclear weapons. And if anything, they and the aliens have a lot in common, and can benefit a lot from each other.
A lot of the ending came from the idea that Brynn has been creating her own world all along in a similar way to the aliens, and there’s a little conversation to be had between these aliens who are now floating around our bodies. , as it were. It felt like there was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek comment, and everything she had done in the first ten minutes of the film could have been useful. I didn’t want the aliens to be too empathetic, but I also think they understood that Brynn was a worthy opponent who doesn’t need to be an opponent.
She ends up dancing in the streets of this idyllic town she imagined through her diorama, and she would rather be among the alien-possessed people than who those people used to be. The aliens gave her a second chance, unlike everyone else. Should we all be a little more compassionate toward those who show genuine remorse?
It certainly wouldn’t hurt. It was also very important that the people who have a very valid reason to be angry at Brynn were not in the finale. Brynn understands that she essentially ruined people’s lives, and that’s not the vibe of the ending either. You don’t see a possessed Collins family in that ending, and it would have been too much work and too ambitious to sneak them out and make sure everything was okay.
I like the idea that this is a global thing, but there are a lot of people like Brynn. I don’t know if she’s the only one out of seven billion people who is still herself and okay, but I like the idea that she is, as far as she knows. She finally gets something she thought she would never deserve, and I love the idea that this child, who has been through so much, had a very happy ending, as strange as it may be.
I like horror movies with a real slap-in-your-face ending, but I liked Brynn too much to punch her in the face. She gets her ass kicked a lot too, but a big part of why I wanted to make the movie was to have that ending. Even when I didn’t know what that ending was, I knew I didn’t want to kick some poor girl’s ass for 90 minutes and then permanently stuff a slug in her mouth.
For me the central theme is self-forgiveness. Brynn ultimately forgave herself instead of waiting for those magical words to come from other people. Only she could save her.
Yes, the title is a very specific title that works in a few different ways. But one of the nice things about not having a lot of dialogue is that the title becomes dialogue in a way. Whether it’s from the aliens to Brynn or Brynn to herself, every character in the movie can say that line and it means something different every time.
No one will save you is now streaming on Hulu. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.