Alone (2023) Review: The pandemic was a life-altering event in the socio-political and economic landscape of the country. Obviously, it has seeped into pop culture as one of the most potent backdrops for any contemporary story to play out against. How many times since 2020 have we seen a movie’s plot center around the pandemic? I am not complaining, but I also cannot deny that it is starting to become a little monotonous now, especially if these movies don’t have anything new to offer. The Malayalam thriller (?), Alone (2023), directed by Shaji Kailas, is a perfect example of the same.
It is 2020, and the opening credits help us reel back to the days when death and suffering had shadowed the whole nation. News reports boom in the background as the camera follows one colorful vehicle traveling along empty roads and highways to reach its destination, Strawberry Heights in Kochi. Kalidasan (played by Mohanlal) steps out of the car in style, introduced to the audience as a mask-wearing hero in vibrant clothes and a shower of sanitizer spray.
He drove from Coimbatore to Kochi in less than 4 hours and has come to live alone in a rented apartment on the 13th floor. The apartment is fully furnished and reeks of a gorgeous place for living in peace and safety while millions across the country suffer. However, from the first night at this place, strange things start happening – his burger is thrown inside a waste bin, and he sees a book flip itself under his bed. Kalidasan thinks that he may have caught Covid and is hallucinating, but is told off both by Yasodha and his doctor. Is Kalidasan delusional, or are there supernatural entities present around him in this apartment? Kailas’ film is not only bizarre but extremely boring with every ticking second. If you make it to the climax, I won’t be astonished if you just eye-roll yourself to death at it.
The camera somersaults around Mohanlal, giving him more attention than he deserves. In the process, it fails to capture the realistic elements of the apartment and its surroundings. Accompanied by weird camera angles, the background score is so loud you’d like to turn the volume down right from the start of the movie. Both these elements desperately try to frame the horror for us because the script just isn’t doing it. The dialogue writing, too, is far from being promising. The jokes don’t land; it doesn’t help that Mohanlal is the one delivering these jokes on most occasions. For example, in one scene where he listens to the sound of cracking bones, he only comes up with a reply as bland as “good job.”
Mohanlal is alone in this film (the joke in the preceding line is just as bad as the movie-watching experience). Because he is the only one we get to look at on the screen, he presents himself in many avatars, from a sneaker and t-shirt-wearing hero whose silver-grey suitcase rolls by itself to a white kurta-pajama wearing man who is focused on practicing yoga to keep himself mindful and calm. He performs like he always does, with an amusing screen presence to keep you entertained, but it isn’t enough.
The last time someone had to spend time alone in an apartment accidentally was Rajkumar Rao as Shaurya in Trapped (2016), a Bollywood film directed by Vikramaditya Motwane. It has to be one of the best performances in recent Indian cinema that reek of horror and fear. Sharing a similar vibe in spirit, Mohanlal fumbles to deliver anything close to the best.
In one scene, when Kalidasan is sharing some payasam with his neighbor, the film sweeps into slow motion. Why? I haven’t been able to figure it out yet. In fact, I am mildly terrified that someone even thought of this plot as being good enough to make a movie on. If you are willing to let sacrifice around 2 hours of your time watching Mohanlal try to sell a sub-par film to his loving audience, Alone (2023) is currently streaming on Disney+Hostar.