If you’re making a movie on a budget, you’ve got to try to cut corners. Do we need this many characters? Does this scene have to take place in space? Do we really think we can afford the rights to “Eight Days a Week?”
Or maybe you just write a movie about a kid all alone in an empty city.
Sergio Allard writes, directs and stars in The Silent Earth, about a kid named Juan who discovers he’s all alone in the world, literally. He wanders the streets thinking about his ex-girlfriend, and he makes youtube videos looking for other people.
We spend most of the time looking at empty things and reliving empty memories of Juan and his girlfriend on the beach. Along the way he drinks, plays video games and gets naked in public because there’s no one to care.
He gets depressed, of course, because he’s alone.
Then in what I consider the most exciting sequence, he counts down to the new year when fireworks go off in the distance. He’s not alone!
Juan hurries over to where the fireworks came from, and we see another young kid who then hurries away, frightened. The following ten or so minutes show us this other kid’s journey, like Juan’s. He woke up, found out he was alone, but then he just got high to pass the time. He then slips, hits his head and dies in his kitchen. So it ends pretty quickly.
Juan is pretty despondent. He has no answers and few clues. He’s just alone.
As the story crawls along to its conclusion, Juan follows the trail of bread crumbs to a large office building. He is shown a video (by no discernible person) of his old girlfriend. She is told to pretend to be a girl who will make Juan fall in love with her. So it was all a lie, everything Juan knew was a lie! It feels extremely unnecessary because his whole world has already been shattered by the fact that everyone’s gone. Discovering that your old girlfriend (who is his old girlfriend, not current) lied to you is nothing compared to everyone you love and know simply vanishing.
He then finds files on him as well as the kid he briefly came across earlier. There is some kind of game or experiment being conducted and he (and others) are the guinea pigs.
A voice tells him he has completed “phase 1” and the movie ends as Juan drives off into the sunset, finally leaving his hometown and declaring in voice over that he will search for others. He says this as if he’s not sure they exist, but he’s flat out been told they exist and he even has files on them and their whereabouts. I don’t think he learned what he was supposed to learn.
As a low budget film this wasn’t terrible. Look, I’ve thought about making a “man wakes up alone in the world” movie too because it immediately simplifies the plot and makes everything clear. We know what’s at stake.
But the movie has no urgency. Juan is cool with hanging out for a bit, even if he claims to be sad. You’d think earlier on he’d decide to leave the city and look for other people, but he has his heart set on staying in town because the movie doesn’t have the budget for new locations.
So nothing happens until there’s just a sudden partial explanation of why people disappeared. At least let Juan mess things up a bit and wreak havoc, forcing whoever’s in control to deal with him. Then you’ve got a story, not a great one, just, at least something happens then.
No one’s going to see this movie, I’m guessing. I only saw it because I dared myself to watch it. That isn’t to say it’s absolutely terrible or anything, it’s just not my first choice for how to spend 80 or 90 minutes. I was browsing HBO NOW and thought, “screw it, let’s do it.”
But hey, if you have some time and you’re willing, watch this movie. There is some creativity and inspired filmmaking, and it’s a good way to see how well you or a friend might do were you to make a feature film. It would be like watching John Doe, your average adult male, compete at the Olympics in the 100 meter dash. It’s a banana for scale.
I think the next logical step is to bring in JJ Abrams to revitalize the Juan franchise. It’s clearly set up for “phase 2” and beyond. We’ve seen what’s happened with the endless Transformer and Fast and Furious movies, so why not the same with Juan?
The alternate title to this film (and the title by which I discovered it) is Juan in a Million. I would not have clicked on this movie if it were not titled Juan in a Million.
My suggestions for the title of the sequel:
- A Million to Juan
- Juan is the Loneliest Number
- I, Juan
- You Can’t Always Get What You Juan’t
- Longing For Juan Things Were Not This Bad
- The Silent Earth 2