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Brian Duffield, the filmmaker behind ‘No One Will Save You, discusses the movie’s intense ending

Brian Duffield, the filmmaker behind 'No One Will Save You,' discusses the movie's intense ending.

In the culmination of the Kaitlyn Dever-starring movie, an unexpected twist takes centre stage.

During an uneventful weekend at the domestic box office, Brian Duffield’s alien invasion thriller, No One Will Save You, sparked a buzz on social media. The Hulu-released movie, notable for its minimal dialogue, adds another feather to Duffield’s cap after the success of his directorial debut, Spontaneous, earning praise from acclaimed figures such as Guillermo Del Toro and Stephen King.

The sci-fi movie, led by Kaitlyn Dever, begins with the intriguing premise of an alien home invasion but ultimately evolves into a more character-driven narrative. Dever’s character, Brynn Adams, grapples with a haunting incident from her past: accidentally causing the death of her 12-year-old best friend a decade earlier. Consequently, her small-town community, Mill River, ostracizes her, leaving her a lonely figure inside her late mother’s home.

To fill her time, Brynn immerses herself in crafting dresses, building picturesque Mill River dioramas, cooking, dancing, and penning letters of remorse to her late friend, Maude. However, when an alien invasion descends upon Mill River, Brynn’s life takes an unexpected turn as she inadvertently dispatches one of the alien explorers, much like she did with Maude. This incident piques the aliens’ curiosity, leading to further encounters and ultimately Brynn’s abduction into one of their UFOs, where her painful memories are unveiled.

Recognizing Brynn’s deep remorse and her ongoing struggle for self-forgiveness, the aliens decide to grant her a second chance, a gesture her fellow Mill River residents had denied her. In the movie’s closing moments, Brynn joyfully dances in the Mill River streets alongside humans possessed by aliens, some of whom had previously rejected her. In this strange new world dominated by grey aliens, Brynn finds herself living a fulfilling life.

In essence, the title, No One Will Save You, encapsulates the movie’s central theme—that Brynn had to save herself, most importantly, by forgiving herself.

Director Brian Duffield shared his perspective: She finally attains something she never thought she’d deserve, and I like the notion that this young woman, who has endured so much, ultimately finds a strangely happy ending. I appreciate horror movies with bold, unexpected endings, but I had too much affection for Brynn to deliver a harsh one.

In the latter part of a two-part conversation, Duffield also delves into the global implications of the alien invasion and the possibility of other exceptions like Brynn. 

Brynn has been leading a secluded existence, engaging in activities like dressmaking, diorama crafting, cooking, dancing, and letter writing. We discover that she was shunned by her community due to her accidental involvement in her best friend Maude’s death a decade earlier. Given that she was only 12 at the time, do you envision her mother keeping her occupied during a lengthy period of confinement?

Originally, we had the concept that she had been sent to a juvenile detention facility. This was part of the script, but we ultimately didn’t move it, mainly due to weather-related challenges, as far as I recall. It was a combination of factors, including outdoor shooting days and the consideration of whether it might be overwhelming for the audience to witness multiple glimpses of Brynn’s past. It would have been part of those flashbacks induced by the aliens.

I was drawn to cases involving young individuals who had made regrettable choices, which were distinct from the bleak and horrific school shooter scenarios. There were instances like the 2014 Slender Man stabbing, where two girls were involved, and it felt like we were dealing with adolescents who had made abhorrent mistakes. I drew inspiration from movies like Heavenly Creatures, one of my favorites, and upon researching, I learned that one of the girls changed her name (Juliet Hulme) and even became a moderately successful author (Anne Perry) until her true identity was revealed.

The idea of a young girl, barely in her teens, having her entire life defined by a single moment was profoundly sad and lonely. Now, Brynn is alone in her mother’s house, and she never got to experience a normal adolescence. She genuinely adores her chosen interests. Kaitlyn [Dever] and I had extensive discussions about how Brynn embodies a 10-year-old’s concept of a 30-year-old, influenced by her mother’s vintage aesthetic, thanks in part to our production designer, Ramsey Avery.

Brynn missed out on her teenage years, and she won’t have a chance for a Rumspringa, where she can explore and make youthful mistakes. She’s even too afraid to venture out for groceries. It was intriguing to develop a character who had undergone significant healing over the past decade, constructing a seemingly perfect yet somewhat idealized world for herself—her way of making the most of her circumstances.

When the idea of an alien invasion disrupting her microscopic world emerged, it provided a unique lens to explore this character in ways that viewers wouldn’t anticipate.

So, an alien enters her home, and like her friend Maude, she unintentionally ends its life. This event attracts more aliens to her doorstep, and it becomes apparent that the aliens are intrigued by her childhood photos with Maude. Are they attempting to gain insights into our species?

From the beginning of our discussions, we aimed to portray the aliens, particularly the Grays, as highly intelligent yet profoundly alien beings. In the initial encounter, the alien has a checklist of tasks to perform at Brynn’s house, and Brynn is just one item on that list, perhaps ranking as the eighth priority. Simple things like understanding what a refrigerator is might even be higher on its list. Their priorities are entirely different and skewed because of their superior knowledge and capabilities compared to us.

The inclusion of the photos and other elements served a dual purpose. Firstly, it was intended to provide the audience with the tools to start connecting the dots, but from the aliens’ perspective, it was genuinely surprising that Brynn, of all people, was causing such disruption. She was the most unexpected troublemaker in many ways. So, the initial encounter involved the alien trying to figure out if there were other individuals in the house or unforeseen variables. From there, a curiosity and interest in Brynn developed, allowing us as filmmakers to delve into her character and her past.

Moreover, when you have an exceptionally intelligent species that is genuinely intrigued by us, it suggests they’re not solely interested in wiping us out. They possess a real fascination with Brynn, and as they uncover more about her, they become invested in her story. It’s akin to a species of explorers. When someone or something behaves in a way that’s unexpected and unusual, it sparks curiosity. It’s like saying, I want to see the next YouTube video about that. The aliens want to unravel the mystery of Brynn, and hopefully, the audience shares in that intrigue.

Brynn eventually experiences an abduction by a UFO, and during this encounter, she is compelled to relive her traumatic memories before reaching a point of self-forgiveness. Is it possible that the aliens release her because they sense her genuine remorse, not only for Maude but also for the initial alien she unintentionally killed?

Certainly, but we wanted to tread lightly on this aspect. We didn’t want a close-up of the alien shedding a tear, creating a sense of deep emotional understanding. What’s intriguing about the aliens is their enigmatic nature, and neither Brynn nor the audience fully comprehends why certain events unfold as they do, which might be frustrating for some viewers. There’s something profoundly bizarre about the third act, but once Brynn has that moment of being able to literally hold her own hand, a significant burden is lifted from her shoulders.

Everything that follows may not be what she or the audience expected, but she isn’t Tom Cruise in a high-stakes action role. There’s never a scenario where she’s launching nuclear weapons. If anything, she shares common ground with the aliens, and they can mutually benefit from one another.

The ending is heavily influenced by the idea that Brynn spent considerable time crafting her own world, much like the aliens. There’s a subtle, tongue-in-cheek quality to it, where everything she did in the first 10 minutes of the movie becomes unexpectedly advantageous. I didn’t want the aliens to be excessively empathetic, but they recognized Brynn as a formidable and non-adversarial presence.

In the end, Brynn dances in the streets of her idealized town brought to life through her diorama, and she prefers to be among humans who are now inhabited by aliens rather than the people they used to be. The aliens offer her a second chance, a chance she didn’t receive from others. Should we all show more compassion toward those who genuinely regret their actions?

Indeed, it wouldn’t hurt. It was crucial that the individuals who had valid reasons to be upset with Brynn were not part of the finale. Brynn acknowledges that she has essentially altered people’s lives, but the ending doesn’t dwell on that aspect. You don’t see the Collins family, now possessed by aliens, in that concluding scene, as it would have been logistically challenging to address their fate adequately.

The movie suggests a global impact, and there are likely others like Brynn out there. While she may not be the only one among seven billion people to retain her identity and find redemption, the narrative leaves room for that possibility. She attains something she once thought she’d never deserve, and it’s heartening to see a young woman who has faced so much adversity find an unconventional but strangely happy ending.

I appreciate horror movies with bold, unexpected endings, but my affection for Brynn led me to choose a more compassionate route. Despite the challenges Brynn faces throughout the movie, I didn’t want to subject her to further hardships or deliver a bleak conclusion. In essence, the movie’s core theme revolves around self-forgiveness—Brynn’s journey of forgiving herself rather than waiting for validation from others.

The movie’s title, No One Will Save You, carries multiple layers of meaning and can be interpreted differently by each character in the story. Whether it’s spoken by the aliens to Brynn or by Brynn to herself, it conveys a unique significance each time. Source

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