Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

dir Marc Turtletaub
scr Gavin Steckler
prd Deborah Liebling, Andy Daly, Michael B Clark, Alex Turtletaub, Marc Turtletaub
with Ben Kingsley, Harriet Sansom Harris, Jane Curtin, Jade Quon, Zoe Winters, Anna George, Donald Paul, Jeff Kim, Cody Kostro, Teddy Canez, Blair Baker, Eric T Miller
release US 11.Aug.23
23/US 1h27

kingsley harris curtin

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curtin, harris and kingsley
A gently comical tone makes this stranded-alien tale feel a bit sleepy, but the excellent cast adds interest, and the film is packed with quirky details. It's a heartwarming, offbeat little movie with a few edgy moments that ground it nicely. Director Marc Turtletaub never generates much tension or suspense along the way, but he makes sure that the actors shine in their roles, finding some lovely resonance.
In small-town Pennsylvania, Milton (Kingsley) is startled from his quiet life when a spaceship crashes into his azaleas, complete with an injured, mute little spaceman (Quon). When his veterinarian daughter Denise (Winters) hears this, she thinks it's indicative of his continuing cognitive decline. But his neighbour Sandy (Harris) meets the visitor, nicknaming him Jules and warning Milton not to tell anyone. Then Joyce (Curtin) begins snooping around, and the three of them try to help Jules fix his ship, which involves collecting cats. Meanwhile, federal agents (Paul and Kim) are looking for the crashed ship.
Each of these three central characters is a bit of a busybody with little going on in their lives, so their matter-of-fact approach to this big adventure adds a wryly witty touch. Milton needs someone who will listen to him, so he chatters about his life even though Jules can't understand a word. But he watches quietly as he goes about repairing his ship. In addition to oddly understanding eyes, Jules has some supernatural abilities that are revealed along the way. And of course Milton's strange behaviour only makes Denise worry about him more.

Kingsley, Harris and Curtin make a terrific team as these loners who almost reluctantly team up to figure out what they need to do to help Jules. Although only Milton has a back-story, each has moments of humour and emotion, with added nuance because they've been dismissed by society. Kingsley's Milton has basically given up hope that Denise or his estranged son (Miller) will ever listen to what he has to say. And Quon has wonderfully expressive eyes, even while underplaying everything.

Without ever tipping over into an E.T.-style caper, the film remains engagingly thoughtful and introspective as it explores unexpected connections between these three people and this silent grey alien. The relaxed, lowkey approach and underdeveloped characters make the movie feel rather slight, as if it's little more than an ode to older people who have been abandoned by society. But viewers looking for a slice of positivity will enjoy it.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 4.Aug.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall