"Alone Together" a perfectly banal COVID-bubble romance

Alone Together (2022)

Coincidentally, “Alone Together” is the second film this month to be about an AirBnB double-booking. It’s also another film set against the backdrop of the year the world fell apart to be called scary/strange/unusual times. This romantic drama, star Katie Holmes’ second feature as a writer-director, feels outdated in that respect, but even had there been more time between the pandemic and this story being told, it still feels a little stale as a COVID-era love triangle. Despite some cozy charms and nice performances from appealing actors, “Alone Together” is pretty banal and myopic.

Holmes plays June, a New York restaurant critic from the cushy Upper West Side. She takes care of her Alzheimer’s-stricken grandfather who raised her and she’s been in a seemingly happy year-long relationship with John (Derek Luke, who once upon a time co-starred with Holmes in “Pieces of April”). Then March 15, 2020 happens. Deciding to get out of the city for a couple of weeks, John books an Airbnb for them somewhere upstate, but June goes alone while he takes care of his sick father. When June arrives at the address in a Lyft, the spare key is gone and someone is already there. Surprise, the house has been double-booked, and out comes Charlie (Jim Sturgess), an auto mechanic and restorer who’s just been dumped. These strangers butt heads at first but come to an agreement about sharing the place, and June gets the bed. Of course, things become more complicated as John grows distant with June and she just assumes he’s cheating on her. So, with June and Charlie living under the same roof, a friendship or maybe something more begins to develop.

In the real world during the pandemic lockdown, people lost their jobs and, worse, died. “Alone Together” does address this, but most of the time, we get to see June and Charlie creating a bubble for themselves in their Airbnb. They drink a lot of white wine and whiskey, eat McDonald’s and SpaghettiOs, go for blissful bike rides, play cards, sing karaoke, roast marshmallows out of a fireplace, and maybe fall in love after sleeping together. Charlie, being more attentive to what's going on, does at least start making masks for them both out of an old shirt. Sure, we were all locked inside our homes and understand the isolation, but here, it just feels a wee bit tone-deaf, especially when June’s entitlement keeps showing. It’s assumed that we should have more sympathy for June, but she becomes frustratingly hard to root for, even as she becomes less selfish and more free.

Behind the camera, Katie Holmes shows capable chops and seems to have amassed a collaborative crew. This is mainly a two-hander between Holmes and Sturgess, but Melissa Leo has a few gentle, touching moments as Charlie’s worried mother through FaceTime. Zosia Mamet also shows up a couple of times either on FaceTime or just by phone as June’s best friend, mainly a sounding board. Her script even brings grace and generosity to her characters, even if John is very sketchily defined. Holmes’ intentions for telling this story are pure, being about companionship when the state of the outside world is hard to predict. If the film has anything wise and relatable to say, it does stress the importance of never losing oneself in a relationship, which hopefully doesn't happen again for June. But by the eye-rolling conclusion, “Alone Together” only gets so far in being earnestly performed and kind of sweet.

Grade: C +

Vertical Entertainment is releasing “Alone Together” (98 min.) in theaters July 22, 2022 and on digital and on demand July 29, 2022.