The Man From Earth

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manfromearth.jpg

2007

Genres:
Arthouse, Drama, Sci-Fi, Philosophy, Religion

Starring:
David Lee Smith, John Billingsly, William Katt, Ellen Crawford, Annika Peterson, Tony Todd, Richard Riehle

Summary:
John Oldman (Smith) has just quit his job as an English professor and is packing up his house to move to greener pastures. Before he goes, his colleagues and friends have decided to throw him an impromtu farewell party. Showing up at his house unexpected, they pester and cajole John about his reasons for moving. John finally reveals that he must leave in order to avoid suspicion because he's actually a 14,000 year old immortal.

At first his friends think it is a grand joke and play along, but as John goes into increasing detail about his life, the reactions of the others shift to frustration, rage, grief, and horror.

Response:
This is possibly the most unique science fiction movie I've ever seen. Now, that doesn't mean it's the best or the most interesting or the most thought-provoking (although I could certainly argue the latter). But it is an amazing one-of-a-kind film.

The plot is almost ridiculously simple- a man announces to his friends that he's an immortal and then has to deal with their various reactions. But it's these reactions and the ensuing philosophical dialogue that make this movie so great. The concept of immortality has been done to death in sci-fi, fantasy and horror (pun intended). The Man From Earth, however, raises some truly novel questions about what it would mean to live forever, both to the immortal himself and those around him.

The ensemble cast is strong, which is a good thing since that's about all there is to this movie. Smith makes a calm and wonderfully understated lead, particularly considering his character's outrageous claim. Rhiele, Katt, and Peterson all give brilliant supporting performances. I thought Crawford's performance was a bit abruptly melodramatic, but then again she plays the Christian literalist, and I was never destined to like her character.

At its heart, The Man from Earth is a play masquerading as a movie. Except for the occasional foray outside John's house, there is only one set, John's living room. There are no special effects. There is no traditional soundtrack. There isn't even a tagline or catch phrase for the movie. There is, however, some great dialogue. As John's story unfolds and his impossible life becomes even more unbelievable, his friends are torn between believing him and grieving that he's insane.

The twists in this movie are subtle and well-developed. If I were to reveal them here, it would all sound trite and ridiculous. But embedded in the movie, they are wonderful devices used to question religion, human nature, evolution, and love.

There is no way I can do justice to this movie in this review so I just recommend you give it a go. Worst that happens, you'll be bored. Best that happens, you'll have a new offbeat favourite.

Point Blank:
If you're in the mood for philosophical sci-fi, this film is a real treat. If you want action, look elsewhere.