Save Yourselves!

Save Yourselves! is part mumblecore movie, part parody of '50s science-fiction thrillers. I hope that sounds appealing, because this film is a real treat. There's a low-key, unassuming vibe to it that yields a lot of laughs. Unlike some comedies, it doesn't strain for the jokes, it simply presents a series of absurdities to be amused by. And the sci-fi element is there to support the true heart of the story, which involves the strained relationship between a young couple.

Sunita Mani (Glow) and John Reynolds (Stranger Things) play Su and Jack, a Brooklyn couple who are fed up with life and work stresses that are making them distant from one another. When they're offered a free weekend at a remote cabin upstate, they jump at the chance to go “off the grid” for a few days. Their hope is to use the time to reconnect. Early scenes find them struggling without cell phones, as they try to find things to do or talk about. Being alone proves unexpectedly awkward. Making it worse is that rustic living isn't something they have the skills for.

Then the couple discovers a “pouffe” in the living room. They think it's just a furry footstool at first, but it moves on its own. More pouffes are lingering around – and on – the cabin. They even witness one of them lashing out its tongue and putting holes in things. In short, the pouffes are dangerous, despite their harmless appearance. Due to their threat, Su and Jack have to figure out how to get on the same page if they want to survive. It's like relationship therapy by fire.

If I had to describe Save Yourselves! in one word, that word would be “droll.” The performances are droll, the dialogue is droll, and the whole tone of the picture is droll. This is not a big slapstick comedy with broad jokes. Instead, the humor comes from observing how the interactions between Su and Jack change (or, in some cases, don't change) as a result of their encounter with alien beings. In one of the most clever twists, the movie flip-flops what you traditionally see in this sort of picture. Su is more the take-charge type, whereas Jack is often too befuddled to think straight.

Of course, seeing two adults running from giant furballs is funny in its own right. The comedy goes to another level when the couple flees the farm and hides in the woods. An event transpires here that drives home the overall theme of Save Yourselves!, as the characters are forced to confront what they really want from life, and whether it's even the traditional stuff they've spent so long chasing. Having an absurd catalyst like the pouffes nicely underlines the seriousness of the exploration they must do.

Mani and Reynolds have endearing chemistry together. Their approach to comedy is compatible, as neither step on any of the punchlines. They play everything completely straight, and that helps foster the whole absurd vibe. Filmmakers Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson have carefully calibrated the tone of the movie, and the two leads understand perfectly how to maximize it. They're hilarious together, making Save Yourselves! a cheerful, pleasingly silly sci-fi rom-com.

out of four

Save Yourselves! is rated R for language. The running time is 1 hour and 33 minutes.